OSHA releases three GHS-related fact sheets

Written on: June 1, 2013 by Mike Moffatt

internatinal-regs-logoMany of our clients have been finding transitioning to the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS)-based Hazcom 2012 rules for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and labels more difficult than they had anticipated, thanks to some of the quirks in the system. While the “H” in GHS stands for “Harmonized,” the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) system has a number of unique features that present implementation challenges. Fortunately, OSHA has recently released three “Briefs” that provide guidance on some of the rules.

Safety Data Sheets

Training Requirements 

Labels and Pictograms

Unfortunately, (as we go to press) OSHA still has not provided guidance on the issue of Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HNOCs), one of the most difficult issues in Hazcom 2012. Let’s hope guidance is coming soon.
After studying the three briefs, here are our 10 biggest take-aways:

1. Ingredient concentrations on SDSs should be given as exact percentages.
The guidance document gives three exceptions to that rule:

• When trade secret status is claimed.
• There are variations within batches of the same product.
• The SDS is used for multiple products that have “substantially similar mixtures.”

This approach is significantly different than the existing Canadian approach, where the use of percentage ranges is encouraged. I would not be surprised if OSHA further clarifies this point, as it will make it difficult to have harmonized Canadian and U.S. documents.

2. Pictograms do not need to appear on SDSs.
An indication of the appropriate pictograms must appear on Section 2 of the SDS. However, this does not have to be the full pictogram including the red border. A black and white symbol can appear, or simply the name of the symbol.

3. PELs must appear on Section 8 of the SDS.
OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELS) must appear alongside American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and “any other exposure limit used or recommended by the chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer preparing the safety data sheet, where available.”

4. SDSs can be stored electronically, but…
Nothing new, but a nice reminder. If SDSs are stored electronically, “employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area when needed and a back-up is available for rapid access…”

5. No blank red diamonds may appear on labels.
This has been well known for some time, but there was hope that OSHA would loosen this restriction. They have not.

6. Training must be done in a manner employees understand.
Workplaces have until December 1, 2013 to train employees on the new standard. The English language ability of the employee needs to be taken into account, along with their literacy level, when designing a training program.

7. Unknown acute toxic ingredients must be listed on the label.
Any ingredient of a 1% or higher concentration that is in the mixture and is of unknown acute toxicity must be listed on the label.

8. The environmental pictogram can appear on the label.
It was helpful for OSHA to confirm this, as it aids in harmonization with EU products.

9. Workplace vs. Transport label distinction.
A tricky issue for manufacturers is when to put a transportation label on a package vs. when to put an industrial label on a package. The rules as they currently stand are as follows:

“Those labels must be on the external part of a shipped container and must meet the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) requirements set forth in 49 CFR 172, Subpart E. If a label has a DOT transport pictogram, Appendix C.2.3.3 states that the corresponding HCS pictogram shall not appear.”

This poses problems for shipments from countries where the non-transportation pictograms (that is, the HCS pictograms) appear on the shipping label. OSHA has recognized this and will be changing the rules:

“However, DOT does not view the HCS pictogram as a conflict and for some international trade both pictograms may need to be present on the label. Therefore, OSHA intends to revise C.2.3.3. In the meantime, the agency will allow both DOT and Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) pictograms for the same hazard on a label. While the DOT diamond label is required for all hazardous chemicals on the outside shipping containers, chemicals in smaller containers inside the larger shipped container do not require the DOT diamond but do require the OSHA pictograms.”

10. HMIS and NFPA can appear on labels.
There were some concerns when Hazcom 2012 was introduced that there would be confusion between the GHS-based Hazcom 2012 rules and NFPA and HMIS. Under GHS, a higher category number represents a lower hazard (e.g. Acute Toxicity 2 is a higher hazard than Acute Toxicity 3), while under NFPA and HMIS, lower numbers are associated with weaker hazards.

Employers are still permitted to show the National Fire protection Association (NFPA) and Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) information on labels, so long as employees are trained and “fully aware of the hazards of the chemicals used.”

We will await additional guidance from OSHA. We are also still waiting for the draft regulation of the Canadian implementation of GHS. I have been told by Ottawa to expect the new rules “in weeks, not months,” but I will believe it when I see it. SPRAY