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Coating Makers Score Label Reprieve

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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Federal regulators will grant coating manufacturers more time to meet new global requirements for labeling and safety data sheets, the American Coatings Association has announced.

At a meeting Oct. 31, officials from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) responded to ACA’s petition for an extension on the deadline of June 1, 2015, for aligning those documents with the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) for chemical product formulators.

The 1994 standard was revised in 2012 to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), developed by the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe.


The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals is designed to clarify labeling and safety data sheets worldwide. New pictograms include warnings for (from left) environmentally damaging substances, health hazards and toxic gases.

The goal, summarized as "the right to understand," is to provide a "common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets."

According to ACA, OSHA has agreed to provide formulated product manufacturers with "relief" from the current deadline, "but will do so in the form of an enforcement policy letter and a compliance directive rather than reopening the rule itself."

ACA said that no new deadline had been set, but that the approach should give its members "the necessary extra time to revise their labels and safety data sheets in conformance with the GHS beyond June 1, 2015."

Implementation Appeal

ACA and eight other trade associations petitioned OSHA for the extension in a letter Aug. 12.


The U.N. Economic Commission for Europe developed the new system.

ACA had asked for an extension for chemical product formulators to June 1, 2017, contending that the formulators could not complete their changes until all of the raw-materials manufacturers have completed theirs.

Therefore, they argue, the formulators need a later deadline than the raw-materials makers.

Enforcement Issues

The changes do not totally let coating makers off the hook, ACA said.

OSHA "will exercise its enforcement discretion" in cases where an ACA member company has "performed their due diligence and made a good-faith effort to obtain the necessary information to comply" with the 2015 deadline, "but is unable to do so."

Therefore, ACA said, companies "should document all efforts to obtain the required information, including attempts to contact their suppliers, and efforts to find other suppliers and to find relevant data themselves."


Other pictograms depict (from left) corrosives, flammable liquids and non-toxic gases.

The same guidelines apply to distributors in demonstrating that they received the hazard communication materials under this policy.

"OSHA confirmed at the meeting that SDSs and labels do not have to be HCS 2012/GHS compliant on June 1, 2015, so long as a company can demonstrate good faith efforts to comply, as described in the letter from OSHA Administrator David Michaels," ACA told its members.

OSHA enforcement officers "will consider the multitude of steps needed to create an SDS and label in determining what a reasonable time frame for compliance is."

Concerns and Questions

ACA has also "raised a number of concerns with OSHA’s enforcement policy" for the rule, including:

  • The lack of a specific deadline for compliance beyond June 1, 2015;
  • The need for additional clarity and guidance on what will be considered “good faith” efforts; and
  • How products in the distribution chain will be treated during the transition period.
© / BasSlabbers

ACA is seeking clarification on a final compliance deadline for the new labeling and on the implications for products in the meantime.

ACA plans to finalize a response to OSHA with input on these issues and urged OSHA to distribute the formal compliance directive as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, ACA is proceeding as if OSHA has extended the deadline as long as a company:

  • Can show that its labels and data sheets are in compliance with current version of the HCS;
  • Is making good-faith efforts to comply with the June 1, 2015, deadline;
  • Can demonstrate that it cannot comply because of circumstances beyond its control; and
  • Can provide a plan that will put the company in compliance "within a reasonable period of time" after June 1, 2015.

More work "is necessary to clarify the enforcement policy and resolve the precise language of the expected compliance directive," ACA said.

For more information, contact ACA’s Stephen Wieroniey or Tim Serie at (202) 462-6272.


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association (ACA); Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Container labels; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health and safety; Latin America; Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS); North America; OSHA

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