Standardizing Hazard Communication by Maytal Rand

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established in 1970 with a mission of ensuring the health and safety of workers across the country. As part of their mission, OSHA has established a Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard as a method for helping employers and employees identify potential hazards in the workplace. Recent updates to the HazCom Standard include the integration of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
With the integration of GHS into the OSHA standard, workers in the United States will now participate in a system for the classification and labeling of chemicals that is identical to the system utilized by their international counterparts. For chemical manufacturers, the required changes have been welcomed as they can now market their products with a standardized complement of information on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and the container label regardless of where the chemical is bought, sold, shipped or used.
In the laboratory, the primary changes that have come about from OSHA's adoption of GHS are as follows:

  • Labels: All chemical manufacturers will be required to update their labels to include a pictogram and signal word, a hazard statement for each hazard class, as well as a precautionary statement that recommends measures to mitigate exposures to hazardous substances.

  • Hazard Classification: A data-driven analysis of the intrinsic properties of each chemical is now required in order to identify and assign the physical, health and environmental hazards that will be used for labeling and safety information purposes.

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS): SDSs, formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), will now appear in a 16 section standardized format:

Section 1 –Identification
Section 2- Hazard(s) Identification
Section 3 –Composition Information
Section 4 - First-Aid Measures
Section 5 - Fire-Fighting Measures
Section 6 - Accidental Release Measures
Section 7 - Handling and Storage
Section 8 - Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
Section 9 - Physical and Chemical Properties
Section 10 - Stability and Reactivity
Section 11- Toxicological Information
Section 12 - Ecological Information
Section 13— Disposal Considerations
Section 14 - Transport Information
Section 15 - Regulatory Information
Section 16 - Other information including date
of preparation or last revision

OSHA requires that all personnel be trained on the GHS integration to the Hazard Communication Standard by December 1, 2013. Accordingly, EH&S has been incorporating the relevant information into its monthly Laboratory Safety, Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Waste Management Training course and the Rascal-based version, as well as presenting it during post-laboratory survey information sessions. While we are well on the way to meeting this training deadline, EH&S will be offering additional opportunities to the research community, in Fall 2013, for HazCom training. Additionally, Facilities Management personnel have already received the required training on the changes to the HazCom Standard.

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