OSHA releases Hazard Communication Standard inspection procedures.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new Directive outlining the changes in enforcement caused by the modification of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012) to harmonize with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The new Directive, titled Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012), describes how to determine if a violation has occurred under the revised standard as well as how it will be enforced both during its transition period and after full implementation.

The Inspection Procedures note that HCS 2012 is based on GHS Revision 3 (2009), not the more recent Revisions 4 or 5 issued by the UN in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The Directive notes that using a more recent version of GHS may result in noncompliance with HCS 2012 “if it contradicts or casts doubt on OSHA required information.” Notably, OSHA requires that precautionary and hazard statements incorporated from GHS be changed to mandatory, e.g., “should” must be replaced with “shall.”

The Directive provides significant discussion on hazard classification under the revised standard. Classification must be based on criteria specific to each hazard class, and evaluations must “consider all available data on the hazards.” Other considerations include quality and quantity of data and positive and negative results in a single weight-of-evidence determination. Detailed evaluation procedures are included in the Directive’s appendices. In terms of inspection guidelines, the Directive notes that “[t]he adequacy of a company’s hazard classification should be assessed primarily by examining the outcome of that classification.”

The HCS 2012 labeling and SDS requirements went into effect on June 1, 2015 (except for distributors, for whom labeling requirements do not apply until December 1, 2015). However, where a company has “exercised ‘reasonable diligence’ and ‘good faith’ to obtain HCS 2012-compliant SDSs from upstream suppliers but have not received them, they will be allowed limited continued use of HCS 1994-compliant MSDSs and labels.”