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ASSE Poll: Safety Community Ready for GHS

Implementing a globally harmonized system of classification and labeling of chemicals (GHS) would be the next best step in improving hazard communications systems, according to a web poll sponsored by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

A March 22 technical audio conference revealed that 98 percent of web poll participants – comprised mostly of safety and health professionals – voted “yes”when asked whether they see hazardous communication systems improving as a result of GHS implementation. In addition, 72 percent of poll voters said that their companies are in the process of preparing for GHS and 88 percent said they thought that GHS would help their companies streamline their hazard communication (HAZCOM) issues.

Among other poll results:

  • 72 percent said that their companies have a HAZCOM program with international issues.
  • 52 percent said that their companies dedicate significant resources to international issues.
  • 61 percent said that they have international safety, health and environmental responsibilities.

According to ASSE, the poll results are indicative of the impact GHS is going to have in the safety and health community.

"Hundreds of safety, health and environmental professionals participated in the GHS call,” said Christopher Gates, assistant administrator of the ASSE Management Practice Specialty. “This clearly illustrates that GHS will be a critical issue for the profession in the near future and has the potential to make a significant impact on workplace safety and health when the system is fully implemented."

Jennifer Silk, OSHA's former deputy director of the Directorate of Standards and Guidance, and Mary Frances Lowe of EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs were on the call and discussed how GHS would impact hazard communication for manufacturers, importers, distributors and end users in all industries.

They also discussed how GHS would change material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and company HAZCOM programs and the impact GHS will have on EHS professionals.

According to ASSE, GHS – adopted by the United Nations in 2003 with the goal of implementing it internationally by 2008 – is intended to provide a comprehensive approach to:

  • Defining health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals.
  • Creating classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria.
  • Communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and MSDSs.

Proponents of GHS have been appealing to OSHA to adopt the standard as soon as possible. This would mean that the agency would have to make changes to the HAZCOM standard as well as its MSDS requirements.

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