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On April 13, 2021 the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC) hosted a meeting with OSHA officials to bring stakeholders up-to-speed on the proposed changes to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom) that were published by the Agency on February 16, 2021.

Distinguished presenters included Janet Carter, Senior Health Scientist at USDOL/OSHA, Jennifer Lawless, Senior Industrial Hygienist at USDOL/OSHA, and Maureen Ruskin, Acting Director of the Directorate of Standards and Guidance at USDOL/OSHA.

The Session kicked off with Janet Carter providing an overview of the UN’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification & Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), including the current status of updates to the GHS at the UN. Her presentation then shifted to directly addressing OSHA’s current proposed changes to the HazCom Standard.

She began by laying out OSHA’s rationale for aligning with Revision 7 of the GHS, and outlined the following benefits:

  • Providing additional clarification of existing regulatory requirements
  • Incorporating GHS Revision 7 hazard classes and categories to further refine chemical hazard information
  • Improving and streamlining precautionary statements on SDSs and labels
  • Removing barriers to international trade through increased alignment with key trading partners

This last bullet is especially notable, as major trading partners including Canada, New Zealand, EU and Australia are also currently in the process of updating their respective hazard communication regulations to align with GHS Revision 7.

She stressed that all workplaces covered under the HazCom Standard are potentially affected by the HazCom GHS Revision 7 updates, and that changes to how hazards of chemicals present in your workplace are classified will ultimately necessitate changes to your SDSs, labels and workplace training programs.

What Changes are Being Proposed?

Jennifer Lawless, Senior Industrial Hygienist at USDOL/OSHA provided a detailed discussion of the proposed changes to HazCom contained in the 2021 NPRM, which included:

Appendix A – Health Hazards

  • Revised health hazard definitions ( e.g. update definition for germ cell mutagenicity)
  • Update to Skin corrosion/irritation, Serious eye damage/eye irritation
  • Clarification on classification schemes
  • General updates to hazard classes (e.g., acute toxicity – clarification on use of data from human experience)

Appendix B – Physical Hazards

  • Addition of Pyrophoric gases and unstable gases to Category 1A of the flammable gases hazard class
  • Addition of new subcategory (1b) for flammable liquids which have low burning velocity or high flammability limit
  • New chapter in Appendix B for desensitized explosives to more thoroughly describe their inherent hazards (via new hazard statements, signal words and other GHS label elements) during transport, handling, processing, etc.
  • Addition of aerosol gases hazard class to differentiate between gases under pressure and aerosols, which will now be classified into 3 aerosol hazard categories based on flammability and heat of combustion. (Category 3 will no longer require a hazard pictogram on shipped container labels)

Appendix C – Label Elements

  • Updating label elements to account for new health and physical hazards in Appendices A-B
  • Updated guidance/clarification on new hazards
  • Clarification/combination of precautionary statements to reduce redundant information and make it easier to understand for users

Appendix D – Updates to Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

  • Inclusion of Particle Size in Section 9 concerning Physical & Chemical Properties
  • Inclusion of interactive effects and use of QSAR/read across methods in Section 11 on Toxicological Information

Lawless also highlighted some proposed changes relating to specific implementation issues encountered following introduction of GHS Revision 3 updates back in 2012. These included:

  • Release for Shipment – Proposed Revision 7 updates re-define “release for shipment” to indicate that the chemical has been “packaged and labeled in the manner that it will be distributed or sold.” Under the proposed Revision 7 updates, chemicals that satisfy the “release for shipment” definition will not need to be re-labeled in the event that new hazard information on that chemical is identified. This is a change from the current HazCom 2012 Standard which requires chemical suppliers and employers to re-label shipped containers with newly identified hazard information within 6 months of becoming aware of that information. The proposed changes would eliminate this requirement for containers that have been “released for shipment”, easing labeling burdens, costs and potential hazards when re-labeling.
  • Small Packages – Proposed changes will codify the practical accommodations specified in past letters of interpretation (LOI) that allow for use of abbreviated labels on shipped containers smaller than 100ml
  • Improved SDS Preparation – Proposed changes include the following updates to SDSs:
    • Section 2 – clarification of how chemical hazard information is presented (e.g. including hazards associated with changes in chemical’s physical form under normal use)
    • Section 3 – allows for the use of concentration ranges to be withheld as trade secret
    • Section 8 – clarification on inclusion of OEL/PEL/TLV or other exposure limits for individual ingredients and constituents of mixtures (e.g. if an ingredient/constituent has an applicable OSHA PEL, it must be listed in Section 8 of the SDS)

The session turned back to Janet Carter who discussed some issues relating to alignment between OSHA HazCom and Canada’s HPR and WHMIS requirements. They included:

  • Introduction of prescribed concentration ranges to use in place of actual concentration ranges on SDSs and labels, further aligning the proposed HazCom changes with those already in place under Canada’s HPR
  • Aligning labeling requirements for small packages (>100ml) with Canada’s HPR
  • Allowing for use of the “exclamation mark” hazard pictogram on labels and SDSs to describe chemicals with health hazards not otherwise classified (HNOC) and physical hazards not otherwise classified (PNOC)

Next Steps

On April 12, 2021 OSHA published an extension of the public comment period for the NPRM until May 19, 2021 and is strongly encouraging stakeholder input on the proposed rule.

To offer public comment on the proposed rule, visit the Federal Register page here.

OSHA will most likely not issue a final rule until late in 2021 at the earliest. That being said, changes are coming.

With modifications to existing hazard classifications and addition of new hazard classes, hazardous product manufacturers, importers and distributors in the US will need to re-evaluate the hazards of the products they sell or import into the country to ensure product hazards are classified according to GHS Revision 7 hazard classification criteria.

Therefore, many SDSs and shipped container labels will need to be re-authored to reflect changes in chemical hazard classification or information and ensure compliance with updated requirements. Specific industry sectors identified by OSHA within the NPRM including chemical manufacturing, oil and gas extraction, and plastics and rubber products manufacturing will be more significantly affected by these classification changes.

Downstream users will also need to be prepared to manage the influx of updated SDSs as they enter the workplace, and to revise their written HazCom Plans and HazCom training to account for new classifications and new hazard and precautionary statements.

No matter where a company is in the chemical supply chain, there will be a lot of work they’ll need to do to get up to speed with new HazCom requirements.

VelocityEHS Can Help!

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To see for yourself how VelocityEHS can help you simplify compliance with HazCom, WHMIS and other global GHS-aligned hazard communication standards, Request a Contact today or give us a call at 1.888.362.2007.