The U.N. adopted GHS, a consistent way to globally communicate chemical hazard information, in 1992. OSHA announced its adoption of GHS on March 20, and the final rule will be published in the Federal Register March 26. The standard goes into effect 60 days after that publication date. Companies that work with chemicals are expected to have trained their employees on how to read the new material safety data sheets (MSDS) and labels by June 1, 2013, and to have all employee training completed by June 1, 2016.
According to ASSE, EHS professionals are about to be flooded with changes to current MSDS and labels that must be revised, rewritten and republished to comply with new GHS regulations and hazard communication standard. Companies and employees therefore should become familiar with the new globalized product/chemical hazard identifier symbols, which have been redesigned to include a red border.
Understanding the Hazards
Risks associated with exposure to chemicals are broad and can range from burning of the skin or eyes, damage to the body’s respiratory or neurological system, birth defects or deadly diseases including cancer. In today’s world of global trade, it has become necessary to have a harmonized system for the classification and labeling of chemicals to help employees around the world understand the hazards of certain substances they come into contact with and to take the necessary precautions to stay safe on the job, ASSE said.
Differences in chemical regulations, classifications and labeling of chemicals in various countries have led to problems in communicating the dangers of hazardous materials, ASSE added. In addition, compliance with multiple regulations can be costly and time consuming for corporations and the burdens currently can make it difficult for them to compete internationally.
Experts strongly urge those affected by GHS to begin implementation and employee training as soon as possible so they are not mired with compliance requirements at the last minute. ASSE urges employers to begin a dialogue with their workers to ensure that they understand the changes. They also should talk to their chemical suppliers to find out their plans to transition to GHS.
So don't delay – by starting to address GHS as soon as possible, companies can make a difficult, lengthy task more manageable, ASSE stressed.