OSHA Revises Hazard Communication Standard

On May 20, 2024, OSHA published a final rule revising the Agency’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which requires that workers be informed of chemical hazards.  The rule aligns the HCS with Revision 7 (Rev. 7) of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), which is updated biennially by the United Nations.

The 318-page final rule includes special labelling provisions for small containers and mandates use of prescribed concentration ranges in safety data sheets (SDSs) when a chemical concentration is claimed as confidential.  The final rule also revises the definitions and classification considerations for various health hazards, adds a new hazard class (desensitized explosives) and three new hazard categories, and makes a number of modifications to the formatting and language that must be used on labels and SDSs.

Though the rule was largely finalized as proposed, OSHA amended one provision in response to industry pushback.  In the proposed rule, OSHA included language requiring that chemical manufacturers and importers evaluate chemical hazards “under normal conditions of use and foreseeable emergencies.”  Many commenters argued that the provision would be overly burdensome, requiring manufacturers to anticipate all possible downstream uses.  In response, OSHA eliminated the language, instead mandating that hazard classifications include “any hazards associated with the chemical’s intrinsic properties,” such as changes to the chemical’s physical form or chemical reaction products associated with reasonably anticipated uses.

The final rule is effective July 19, 2024, and contains staggered compliance deadlines.  Chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors evaluating substances must update labels and SDSs within 18 months and must make any necessary updates to alternative workplace labelling, hazard communication programs, and trainings within 24 months.  The corresponding compliance dates for mixtures are 36 months and 42 months, respectively.  However, OSHA is not requiring chemicals that have been released for shipment to be relabeled.

GHS Rev. 7 was published in 2017.  Though GHS Rev. 8 was published before OSHA released the proposed rule, OSHA opted to align the HCS with Rev. 7 in large part because major trading partners (including Canada, Europe, and Australia) have adopted or are planning to adopt Rev. 7.  However, OSHA integrated some elements of Rev. 8 that the Agency believes will better protect workers, such as an updated method of classifying skin corrosion/irritation that expands use of non-animal test methods.

The final rule marks the first major update to the HCS since 2012, when the Agency adopted GHS Rev. 3.  A previous Verdant Law blog post on the proposed rule can be found here.