OSHA Modifies Hazard Communication Rule for Global Harmonization in Spring Agenda

OSHA, in the release of its Spring 2006 regulatory agenda on April 24, announced it would issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for its hazard communication standard.

The agency plans to modify the rule to be consistent with a globally harmonized system (GHS) for labeling chemicals, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2003. According to OSHA, modifying the standard "would involve changing the criteria for classifying health and physical hazards, adopting standardized labeling requirements, and requiring a standardized order of information for safety data sheets."

In its regulatory agenda last May, OSHA also expressed its desire to make changes to the hazard communication rule. In the November 2005 regulatory agenda, OSHA said it planned to issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking by December 2005. Frank White from ORC Worldwide told OccupationalHazards.com last June "industry would be in favor of adopting a globally harmonized system" (See article: "OSHA Rulemaking Filled With Delays And One New Promise").

OSHA's hazard communication standard requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and prepare labels and material safety data sheets to convey the hazards and associated protective measures to users of the chemicals. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces are required to have a hazard communication program, including labels on containers, material safety data sheets and training for employees.

New Items Added

Three new items were added to the OSHA regulatory agenda:

  • A plan to issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for a revision and update of mechanical power press standards (September 2006).
  • Certifying the New York state occupational safety and health plan for public employees (July 2006).
  • Issuing an interim final rule on procedures for handling discrimination complaints under federal employee protection statutes, which governs whistleblower investigations (May 2006).

Some Rules Delayed Again

The standard for occupational exposure to crystalline silica has been on the agency's agenda since 1997. The completion of peer review of health effects and a risk assessment for crystalline silica originally due in April has been postponed to November 2006. According to OMB Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog, over 2 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica dust, which has been shown to cause death and disabling illnesses.

The beryllium standard has been on the agency's agenda since spring of 1998, and a completed Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act report is expected in February 2007.

Final comments for a standard requiring employer payment for personal protective equipment, which first was proposed in 1998, were received in August 2004. Final action is still pending on that standard, though no specific date has been set to publish the rulemaking, according to an OSHA spokesperson.

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