Summer 2014 was anything but relaxing in the regulatory compliance world. With the June 1, 2015 Hazcom 2012 deadline rapidly approaching, companies are furiously completing Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and updating labels. Preparers of labels and SDS are still struggling with how to interpret the new rule. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration(OSHA) has provided some assistance with the release of four interpretation letters stemming from requests for interpretations made by the American Petroleum Institute.
Letter A clarifies the combustible dust provisions for labels and SDS with a particular focus on products that do not pose a combustible dust hazard when shipped, but may when they are processed by the end user. It is available here.
Letter B is the long awaited guidance on OSHA’s Hazards Not Otherwise Classified(HNOC) classification. There is some clarity provided, such as the fact that water does not require an HNOC classification due to the fact that hot water may scald, nor does it require an HNOC classification due to water making floors slippery. Unfortunately, there are still a number of remaining questions when it comes to HNOCs. The guidance letter can be found here.
The third letter clarifies the classification of mixtures that contain 1–10% of a Category 1 STOT (Single Target Organ Toxicity) ingredient. The letter lays out the circumstances in which the product can be granted a less severe classification, and can be found here.
The final letter contains information on the classification of petroleum streams, which includes crude oil and anything derived from crude oil, such as butane or propane. For aerosol companies, this is likely the most useful of the four letters and provides guidance on both classification and the information that must be disclosed on a safety data sheet. It can be seen here.
GHS in Canada
Canada is slowly making progress on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification & Labeling of Chemicals(GHS) with Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, receiving Royal Assent on June 19, 2014. The bill contains a number of changes to Canada’s Hazardous Products Act that are needed for GHS to be implemented. Expect new regulations to be released in the Canada Gazette, Part I in the next six months that would take effect in June 2015. There will likely be a two- or three-year window for companies to achieve full compliance. As most labor regulations are at the provincial level, every Canadian province and territory will have to update their regulations as well.
The changes to the Hazardous Product Act are themselves important, as they raise the penalties for non-compliance and give the Minister of Health additional powers to protect the public against harmful products. Some of the key changes are as follows:
- Record Keeping: Safety Data Sheets, label and other documentation must be retained by the supplier “for six years after the end of the year to which they relate or for any other period that may be prescribed.”
- Testing: The Minister of Health can now order, in writing, sellers or importers of products to submit testing data, conduct tests or “compile information relating to the formula, composition, chemical ingredients or hazardous properties of the product, mixture, material or substance, and any other information that the Minister considers necessary” within a specified time frame.
- Seizure of Products & Documentation: Inspectors are given the ability to “at any reasonable time enter any place, including a conveyance, in which the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe that an activity regulated under this Act” [is occurring], which includes manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers. The inspector is granted the authority to “examine or test any product, mixture, material or substance found in the place that the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe is a hazardous product and take samples of it, and examine any other thing that the inspector believes on reasonable grounds is used or is capable of being used for the manufacture, preparation, preservation, packaging, sale, importation or storage of a hazardous product.”
- Penalties for Non-Compliance: The maximum penalties for non-compliance are increased by a factor of 3-5 across the board. Those facing a conviction on indictment can receive a maximum penalty of a fine of $5,000,000 and/or a prison term of not more than two years, up from $1,000,000 and six months, respectively.
The full text of Bill C-31 can be found here, and it contains the amendments to the Hazardous Products Act.
We will be keeping a close eye on both the U.S. and Canadian GHS progress. I am cautiously optimistic that in my next article we will have additional U.S. guidance on Hazardous Not Otherwise Classified and new Canadian GHS regulations.