The US OSHA Proposes Hazard Communication Revisions to Align with GHS Revision 7

In the February 16, 2021 Federal Register, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed amendments to the hazard communication standard (HCS) to align the rule with other agencies and international standards, as well as address issues from the 2012 revision to the HCS. Public comments will be accepted through April 19, 2021.

Many proposed changes are intended to better align the HCS with Revision 7 of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), which was published in 2017. Changes include revised criteria for classification of certain health and physical hazards, revised labeling requirements, technical amendments to the contents of safety data sheets (SDSs), and new provisions relating to concentrations or concentration ranges being claimed as trade secrets.

OSHA is proposing to implement the revisions over a two-year phase-in period. The revisions would become effective 60 days after the publication date, and chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors evaluating substances would be required to comply with all modified provisions no later than one year after the effective date, and manufacturers, importers, and distributors evaluating mixtures would be required to comply with all provisions no later than two years after the effective date.

The revisions would add classification categories for aerosols, desensitized explosives, and flammable gases. Additionally, OSHA would update certain hazard and precautionary statements to provide clearer and more precise hazard information.

The rule also addresses labeling requirements for small container and for packaged containers that have been released for shipment.

The revisions would require establishments to revise their electronic templates for SDSs and labels to conform with formatting and language criteria in precautionary statements and other language in appendices C (Allocation of Label Elements) and D (Safety Data Sheets). This would require updates to labels and SDS for select hazardous chemicals to include updated signal words, hazard statements, pictograms, and precautionary statements.

OSHA does not intend to require the reclassification of chemicals based on updated test methods. It may, in the final rule, include a provision stating that chemicals classified based on older test methods, prior to the effective date of the rule, do not need to be reclassified.

OSHA proposes a definition for “Bulk Shipment” which means any hazardous chemical transported where the mode of transportation comprises the immediate container (e.g. contained in tanker truck, rail car, or intermodal container). This definition is necessary because of the new labeling requirements for bulk shipments. OSHA is also proposing to define “Combustible Dust” in alignment with GHS Revision 7. OSHA did not previously define combustible dust because it was considering a combustible dust rulemaking, but it has not yet adopted a combustible dust standard. A revised definition of “exposure or exposed” is intended to clarify that the HCS covers the hazards of all hazardous chemical including those considered to be a Hazard Not Otherwise Classified (HNOC). OSHA is proposing three new definitions for the terms gas, liquid, and solid to align with GHS Revision 7. The OSHA definition also includes temperature equivalents in Fahrenheit and pressure in equivalent pounds per square inch (PSI) as they are in common usage in the US. “Hazardous chemical” will not include a reference to pyrophoric gas because OSHA is proposing to classify this hazard as a physical hazard in the flammable gas hazard class. To support the revised labeling requirements for small containers, OSHA proposes to add a definition for “immediate outer package” which is the first packaging enclosing the container of hazardous chemical. Under the small container labeling change, small containers would be subject to relaxed requirements, but the immediate outer package must have complete label information. Finally, OSHA is proposing to define “released-for-shipment” as a chemical that has been packaged and labeled in the manner in which it will be distributed or sold. This is relevant for the proposed requirements for updating labels when new hazard information becomes available. This definition is similar to EPA’s but OSHA is not including chemicals that are stored in an area where finished products are usually held, but not packaged and labeled, because OSHA does not believe there are any feasibility issues with ensuring the labels have the most updated information.

OSHA is proposing to clarify that the hazard classification shall include any hazards associated with a change in the chemical’s physical form or resulting from a reaction with other chemicals under normal conditions of use. This is to clarify confusion about whether chemical reactions that occur during normal conditions of use must be considered during classification.

The proposed rule would modify requirements for labels on shipped containers to state that in addition to HNOCs, hazards resulting from a reaction with other chemicals under normal conditions of use do not have to be addressed on shipped containers, because it might confuse users about the immediate hazards. This information is still required to be indicated on SDSs.

OSHA is also proposing to require that the label include the date a chemical is released for shipment to determine when new hazard information is available and containers that are released for shipment but have not yet been shipped must be relabeled. Chemicals that have been released for shipment but not shipped need not be relabeled, but the manufacturer or importer must provide the updated label for each individual container with each shipment.

Under the proposal, labels for bulk shipments of hazardous chemicals may either be on the immediate container or may be transmitted with shipping papers, bills of lading, or other technological or electronic means so that the information is immediately available in print to workers on the receiving end of the shipment. This would codify a 2016 guidance document created jointly with the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Additionally, under transportation, OSHA is proposing to remove the language that prohibits the HCS pictogram from being displayed on a shipped container that has a DOT pictogram for the same hazard. OSHA is not requiring the HCS pictogram but is allowing its use aside the DOT pictogram.

The new rule would address small container labeling issues, by allowing limited information to be included on the small container label, but the complete label information must be provided on the outside packaging. This would only apply where the manufacturer, importer, or distributor can demonstrate that it is not feasible to use pull-out labels, fold-back labels, or tags containing the full information. Small containers that are less than or equal to 100 ml capacity must include at least: product identifier; pictograms; signal words; chemical manufacturer’s name and phone number; and a statement that the full label information is provided on the immediate outer packaging. No labels would be required for small containers of 3 ml capacity or less where the manufacturer, importer, or distributor can demonstrate that any label would interfere with the normal use of the container. These 3 ml or less capacity containers would be required to bear at least the product identifier. Small containers covered by these exemptions would require a statement on the full label information stating that the small containers must be stored in the immediate outer package bearing the complete label when not in use.

The first revision to SDSs is to read that the chemical manufacturer or importer shall ensure the SDS is in English. The second change to SDSs is to allow SDSs to be stored, rather than designed, in a way to cover groups of hazardous chemicals in a work area, since the 2012 revisions required SDSs to only cover individual hazardous chemicals, not groups of hazards.

There are three changes to the trade secrets section. First, OSHA would allow for concentration ranges to be claimed as a trade secret and to specify that it is section 3 of the SDS from which trade secret information may be withheld. Second, when an ingredient’s exact concentration or concentration range is claimed as a trade secret, the SDS must provide the ingredient’s concentration as a range from a prescribed list of ranges. Finally, the concentration range used on the SDS is to be the narrowest range possible.

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Sources:OSHA, Proposed Rule, Hazard Communication Standard, 86 FR 9576, Feb. 16, 2021