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U.S. Details Coating Label Reprieve

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

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U.S. paint and coating makers who will miss the June 1 deadline for updating their product labeling and safety sheets must be prepared to produce evidence of "reasonable diligence" and "good faith" efforts for their delay, federal regulators say.

Responding to a request from the American Coatings Association, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has clarified the terms of its October enforcement reprieve on those federally mandated changes.

© / BasSlabbers

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

The new Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) rules will affect about 945,000 hazardous chemical products handled by 100 million workers in seven million workplaces, officials say. Among other changes, the rules will replace the longstanding Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) with the term Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

ACA and eight other trade associations had petitioned OSHA in August for an implementation delay. ACA contended that coating formulators, distributors and importers could not complete their document revisions until their upstream raw-materials suppliers had completed theirs.

Thus, ACA argued, makers and distributors of formulated products needed a later compliance deadline.

What's Required

OSHA agreed, but has only now clarified its conditions for an extension. The agency's five-page Enforcement Guidance is dated Feb. 9, but ACA received it Feb. 20.

At issue is the June 1, 2015, deadline for chemical manufacturers and importers to align their safety data sheets and labels for coatings, paints and other chemical mixtures with OSHA's revised HCS.


Greater use of pictograms—for hazards such as (from left) corrosives, flammable liquids and non-toxic gases—should make material hazards more clear, regulators say.

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 Right to Understand'

The goal of the changes, 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."

The new guidelines require simple, clear, concise descriptions that avoid jargon, abbreviations and ambiguous phrases such as "harmless" or “safe under most conditions of use." Hazard symbols (pictograms) and standardized SDS formats are designed to make the documentation as clear and consistent as possible.

Regulators say the new labels could avert dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries annually.

New Guidance

OSHA's new guidance requires manufacturers and importers to create HCS 2012-compliant safety sheets within six months of receiving a complete data set for all of the ingredients in a mixture. Suppliers will have six months for the new labeling requirement—giving them a total of 12 months to comply once they receive their data, according to ACA.


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

Still, suppliers must be able to "demonstrate their reasonable diligence and good faith efforts" to comply. If they can do so, they may continue to use the 1994-compliant labels and MSDSs until the new materials are ready, OSHA says.

Similarly, distributors must document their communication with manufacturers and importers regarding any delays. Distributors with appropriate documentation will be allowed to ship 1994-labeled products until Dec. 1, 2017, according to OSHA.

What 'Good Faith' Means

OSHA said it would provide "a reasonable time period" for manufacturers and importers to comply with the rule if they can document their attempts to do so. That includes documenting their efforts to:

  • Obtain classification information and SDS from upstream suppliers;
  • Find hazard information from alternative sources (e.g., chemical registries); and
  • Classify the data themselves.

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.

OSHA provides "fairly prescriptive details" to guide compliance officers in evaluating a company's efforts, according to ACA.

In addition to the three items above, suppliers are advised to provide "a written account of continued dialogue" with upstream suppliers and distributors about any delays, according to OSHA.

The agency also notes that “reasonable diligence and good faith also requires that the manufacturer or importer provide a clear timeline for when it expects to comply with HCS 2012.”

ACA says it is "reviewing the implications of this guidance for the paint and coatings industry" and will release additional guidance for members shortly.

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

ACA Statement

On March 17, ACA offered this additional clarification of the enforcement directive:

"OSHA will exercise its enforcement discretion in cases where a chemical manufacturer or formulator has performed reasonable diligence and made a good faith effort to comply with HCS 2012, but cannot do so by the June 1, 2015 deadline, due to the lack of classification information from its suppliers.

"The agency’s enforcement discretion policy is limited in nature, and only applies in situations where a manufacturer or distributor can demonstrate it meets a defined set of criteria outlined in the policy. Further, the agency’s enforcement discretion policy only applies to distributors who can demonstrate that they have been engaged with their suppliers and can demonstrate their HCS 1994 product was labeled by a manufacturer taking advantage of this enforcement discretion policy. Any company seeking to avail itself of OSHA’s enforcement discretion policy should carefully review OSHA’s memo to the Regional Administrators and the regulations.  

"Please note that OSHA’s Enforcement Discretion Policy is not a blanket extension or delay of the June 1, 2015 effective date for chemical manufacturers and the December 1, 2015 effective date for distributors; the policy is a reasonable accommodation and form of relief for companies that cannot comply with the effective date, despite their diligence and good faith efforts. While OSHA’s enforcement discretion policy provides relief under certain circumstances, the HCS 2012 compliance deadlines are still in effect, and ACA strongly urges chemical manufacturers and distributors to continue all of their efforts to comply with the rule requirements."

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 12 p.m. ET March 17, 2015, to add ACA's remarks.


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association (ACA); Container labels; Health and safety; Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS); OSHA

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