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New Chemical Hazard Rules Come to U.S.

Monday, June 8, 2015

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WASHINGTON—From picture warnings to revamped safety sheets and explicit job-site signs, a new generation of hazard communications has dawned in the U.S. paint industry with the arrival of a long-pending federal rule.

With a dash of 11th-hour federal guidance, chemical and coating makers are finally navigating the rollout of a major new hazard communication rule that took June 1.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) contains sweeping changes for general industry and the construction and maritime industries.

GHS ChemicalLabels
© / tunart (right)

The 2013 release of the GHS capped a decade of effort across multiple countries aimed at providing a single, globally harmonized system to address classification of chemicals, labels and safety data sheets.

The changes have been pending for three years. 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 decade-long GHS effort aimed to develop a single, globally harmonized system to address classification of chemicals, labels and safety data sheets.

The goal is to provide an unambiguous, common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets.

Noncompliance will carry substantial fines.

'Nearly Every Employer' Affected

The new rules affect about 945,000 hazardous chemical products handled by 100 million workers in 7 million workplaces, officials say.

"Nearly every employer will be affected by this rule change related to employee training content, signs, labeling and programs," industry regulatory expert Alison B. Kaelin, CQA, wrote in 2012 when the rule was announced.

"Chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors will have additional responsibilities related to hazard evaluation, development, and updates to safety data sheets and labels."


"Nearly every employer will be affected by this rule change related to employee training content, signs, labeling, and programs," regulatory expert Alison B. Kaelin, CQA, wrote in a 2012 JPCL article that details the changes.

Gone, among other changes, are the old Material Safety Data Sheets. They are now Safety Data Sheets, which contain much the same information but in a "globally harmonized" and standardized format.

Requirements and Rollout

The rule has been rolling out in phases. By Dec. 1, 2013, for example, employers were to have provided training in the new label elements and SDSs.

And the impending implementation has brought some hiccups.

In August 2014, for example, the American Coatings Association and eight other trade associations petitioned OSHA for an implementation delay.

ACA contended that manufacturers and distributors of chemical formulations would need a later compliance deadline than upstream raw-material suppliers.


Pictograms clarify physical hazards from chemicals under the new labeling regime.

After six months, OSHA responded Feb. 9 with Enforcement Guidance for manufacturers, importers and product formulators.

Essentially, the guidance requires that such parties exercise "reasonable diligence and good faith" to classify their chemical mixtures and develop the required labels—and be prepared to document thoroughly any compliance circumstances beyond their control.

Averting 'Panic and Chaos'

Then, late in May, the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) petitioned OSHA for a last-minute partial delay in enforcement.

The distributors asked for more time to relabel products that were previously labeled and stored in their inventory.

An association vice president said the rule was causing "panic and chaos" among distributors.

On Friday (May 29), OSHA responded to those concerns with Interim Enforcement Guidance that builds on the February document.

Chemical tanks
© / JohnnyH5

The new communications rules apply to labeling of products, equipment and protective clothing, as well as safety data sheets. On June 1, 2016, the changes will extend to job-site signage.

OSHA said it had "received an overwhelming number of additional questions and requests for further clarification on behalf of manufacturer, importers and distributors"—mostly related to relabeling of existing stock.

The need for additional clarification has led to a "minor delay in completing review and clearance of the directive," OSHA added. The directive will now be approved "shortly after June 1" and the guidance document canceled, OSHA said.

NACD president Eric R. Byer said the new guidance "allays many of the concerns our members have regarding compliance with the new OSHA requirements, most importantly, that they may continue to ship previously packaged and labeled products."

Equipment, PPE and Signs

Product labeling isn't the rule's only change. Kaelin noted in a recent interview that the revision also "changes the lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and arsenic standards related to labeling of equipment and used protective clothing."

"This means starting June 1, 2015, every bridge maintenance project and countless others, where hazardous coatings removal is going on, will need to have this labeling," Kaelin notes.

And that new language is generally stronger than the old language. The warnings on lead, for example, become considerably more pressing and detailed, as shown here:


Signage on painting jobs must similarly change by June 1, 2016, she added.


Tagged categories: Coatings manufacturers; Container labels; Good Technical Practice; Government; hazardous materials; Health and safety; Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS); North America; OSHA; Safety Data Sheets

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