March 2014

GHS Moves Forward

Things are heating up fast with only 18 months to go until companies will need their Safety Data Sheets (SDSs—formerly MSDSs) and workplace chemical labels compliant with the U.S.’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification & Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)-based Hazcom 2012 regulations. Here at Nexreg, we have noticed an uptick in panicked calls, with companies learning about the significant burdens this regulation will place on them. We recommend that all of our friends in the chemical industry develop a plan of action immediately, detailing how they will become compliant with the new regulation, as it will be difficult to find consultants to author documents or give SDS authoring software training as the deadline approaches.

If the upcoming U.S. deadline has not causing enough problems, there have been significant developments in many major markets when it comes to GHS-based regulations. GHS is truly becoming global, although it is far from harmonized. Here is what we have been keeping an eye on the last few months:

United States

In the last few months, The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has released several important documents to assist companies becoming compliant with the GHS based Hazcom 2012 regulation. This guidance is incredibly appreciated, though we would have preferred that this information arrived sooner. The most important documents are the following:

  • The OSHA Quick Card that compares Hazcom 2012 labels with the existing National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 704 labels is incredibly useful and should be included in all employee training materials. It can be downloaded in PDF form at http://1.usa.gov/MmXoJC.
  • Another important piece to include in training materials is the new OSHA Hazard Communication wallet card, which contains a QR code allowing workers to get more information on Hazcom 2012 using cellphones. The cards can be obtained at http://1.usa.gov/1frThGy.
  • Less applicable to most aerosol firms is the recent letter of interpretation of the classification of combustible dusts, available at: http://1.usa.gov/1f9MrUK.

We’re still waiting for a letter of interpretation or additional guidance on the classification for “Hazardous not Otherwise Classified.” Additionally, the line between what is considered a consumer product and what is considered a workplace product as not as clear as it is in such jurisdictions as Canada, so we are hoping OSHA will clarify this in the coming months, as well.

Canada

Speaking of Canada, many of us were hoping that the final version of the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) would be released by the end of 2013, but it was not meant to be. The draft HPR, released in mid-2013, was mostly harmonized with the U.S. Hazcom 2012 implementation of GHS, though there were some significant differences. At a minimum, I believe Health Canada will allow at least a two year transition period for compliance, so do not expect the final compliance date for SDSs and labels to be harmonized with the June 1, 2015 date for U.S. compliance.

In unrelated news, the Conservative government has announced a “one-for-one” bill that will require the government to repeal a regulation for every new regulation that is added. The draft bill specifically excludes regulations dealing with health and safety, so it is not likely to affect regulations of interest to the aerosol community.  However, it is possible this exemption may get removed

China

China has published its GHS standard, known as “Guidance on the Compilation of Safety Data Sheets for Chemical Products.” I have not seen an English translation of this standard (GB/T 17519-2013), but I am hopeful one will emerge in the next few months. Like the EU, this new standard is based on the 4th revised edition of the U.N.’s purple book. Unlike the European Union, this standard is only recommended, not required. However, as a best practice, we are advising our clients to treat this standard as mandatory.

Turkey

Turkey has issued its final GHS rule, the Regulation on Classification, Labeling & Packaging of Substance and Mixtures. It is similar in style and scope to the EU’s Classification, Labeling & Packaging (CLP) regulation. I have been unable to locate an English version of regulation 28848, but a Turkish language version exists at http://bit.ly/MnetTU.  Manufacturers and importers will be required to notify the Turkish government of both pure substances and substances within mixtures to the Turkish government. This notification period spans from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015. For new substances placed on the market after June 1, companies have one month from date of manufacture or import to notify the government. If your company has any products that are imported into Turkey, you will want to learn about these new requirements immediately.

As with CLP and other GHS-based pieces of regulation, there are label and safety data sheet requirements. Firms have until June 1, 2015 to update labels and SDSs for pure substances and June 1, 2016 for mixtures. We are still becoming familiar with this new regulation, but if it is as harmonized with the EU regulations as it appears, we do not believe the label and SDS provisions should provide large regulatory burdens on importers (since most will already have EU compliant documents). The notification requirements, on the other hand, could cause problems.

What to expect next

By spring 2014, we should have a final Canadian rule on GHS, a final version of the 6th ATP to the EU’s CLP regulation and hopefully some additional guidance from OSHA on some of the thornier problems created by Hazcom 2012. As always, we will be keeping a close eye on developments.