ASSE Urges OSHA to Include Control Banding in Hazcom Standard

In a recent letter to OSHA Administrator David Michaels, American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President C. Christopher Patton stressed that ASSE supports OSHA’s efforts to align its hazard communication standard with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), but would like to see control banding incorporated into the standard.

ASSE noted that modifying OSHA’s existing Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is a step forward in harmonizing chemical hazard communications worldwide and will help U.S. employers compete in the international marketplace as well as increasing work safety. Patton applauded OSHA for its leadership in undertaking the rulemaking and urged every possible step be taken to achieve a final rule as soon as practical.

He added, however, that ASSE was disappointed to see that control banding (CB) has been “largely ignored” in the standard development.

Control Banding

“When this nation is so close to harmonization with GHS, it would be unfortunately short-sighted not to take the extra step of incorporating control banding since many of the necessary tools to do so are already included in this rulemaking,” Patton said. “To do so would advance harmonization a significant step further and avoid the need for future rulemaking, which ASSE firmly believes will be necessary as control banding becomes more widely accepted in the international marketplace.”

CB is a technique used to guide the assessment and management of workplace risks. It is a generic technique that determines a control measure based on a range or “band” of hazards and exposures, as defined by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

According to NIOSH, “CB uses the solutions that experts have developed previously to control occupational chemical exposures, and suggesting them to other tasks with similar exposure situations. It is an approach that focuses resources on exposure controls and describes how strictly a risk needs to be managed.”

In June 2005, ASSE published Control Banding and the Future of the HazCom Standard, a position paper that urged OSHA and MSHA to consider the use of Control Banding (CB) models in a revised hazard communication standard. From the ASSE review of the leading international resources on CB – the HSE/COSHH-Essentials process as well as the International Labor Organization’s Tool Kit – ASSE believes OSHA should update the standard to incorporate elements of CB.

Other Comments

In his letter, Patton also outlined ASSE’s more specific comments concerning issues and questions asked in the rulemaking, including:

• The need and support for the standard;
• The standard’s economic impact and economic feasibility;
• Implementation resources;
• Reducing the impact on small businesses;
• Opposing the exclusion of three physical and health hazard classes and overall hazard classification;
• Label layout;
• Safety data sheets;
• References – ASSE suggests OSHA reference in the standard a variety of scientific and authoritative references for end users;
• Earlier effective dates;
• Outreach needs; and
• Proposed alternative implementation approaches.

“Harmonizing this nation’s hazard communications with the international marketplace is both a safety and health issue for this nation’s workers and a competitive issue for its employers,” Patton concluded. “Daily, our members experience the reality that we live in a world of commerce that is becoming more and more interconnected. They need the tools to help both the employees and employers with whom they work. To that end, all employers should be required to adopt a revised HCS.”

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