skip to main content

During last week’s VelocityEHS CEU Conference, our very own EHS & Sustainability Expert Phil Molé delivered a session on “Preparing for OSHA’s Coming HazCom Changes: A Practical Guide” to help bring attendees up to speed on the long-anticipated updates to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom). It’s a particularly hot topic in recent months, with OSHA publishing a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) back in February to align its HazCom Standard with Revision 7 of the UN’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (GHS).  

Not surprisingly, session attendees had a lot of questions about what’s changing with the proposed rule and how it could impact their businesses. Below, we’ve provided answers to those questions to help businesses throughout the chemical supply chain gain a better understanding of the changing requirements so you can stay ahead of compliance and maintain the highest levels of workplace chemical safety. We also recorded the session for those not in attendance. Watch it on-demand and download the session handouts to learn more. 

Session Q&A

Q: Do you have a complete list of all the countries that have adopted and/or are transitioning from GHS rev.3 to GHS rev. 7? 

A: The United Nations Subcommittee on the GHS (UNSCEGHS) has compiled a document that, as of July 23, 2021, is updated to indicate the following nations have or will be aligning their national hazard communication regulations with Revision 7*:

  • Argentina 
  • Australia 
  • Belgium** 
  • Brazil 
  • Bulgaria** 
  • Canada 
  • Chile 
  • Croatia** 
  • Cyprus** 
  • Czech Republic** 
  • Denmark** 
  • Estonia** 
  • Finland** 
  • France** 
  • Germany** 
  • Greece** 
  • Hungary** 
  • Iceland** 
  • Ireland** 
  • Italy** 
  • Latvia** 
  • Liechtenstein** 
  • Lithuania** 
  • Luxembourg** 
  • Malta** 
  • Netherlands** 
  • New Zealand 
  • Norway** 
  • Poland** 
  • Portugal** 
  • Romania** 
  • Russian Federation 
  • Slovakia** 
  • Slovenia** 
  • Spain** 
  • Sweden** 
  • United States

*Additional nations/regional organizations may be evaluating alignment with Revision 7 but status is unclear. Please refer to UNSCEGHS document for full details.

** European Union member states adhering to ECHA CLP/REACH regulations.  

Q: If the SDS is coming from an overseas manufacturing into the US, does OSHA require a domestic phone number and address in section 1? What happens if the SDS received by the end user doesn’t have a domestic address? 

A: Yes, OSHA requires that the name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer or other responsible party be listed in Section 1 of the SDS, and that contact information be located/based within the United States. (Responsible party means someone who can provide additional information on the hazardous chemical and appropriate emergency procedures, if necessary.) If an end user receives a hazardous product (including the SDS and shipped container label) directly from an overseas manufacturer or distributor, that end user effectively becomes the “importer” and is responsible for providing the emergency contact information for a responsible party located in the United States.  

Q: We all know that OSHA takes forever to take proposed changes and make them law. Do we know when these changes might take effect? 

A: On July 8, OSHA announced it will hold an informal public hearing on September 21, 2021 to allow interested stakeholders to ask questions and provide testimony on the proposed changes. There is no projected date for publishing the final rule, although some observers speculate that it may be published as early as the end of 2021, but more likely early in 2022.   

OSHA is proposing to implement the revised provisions over a two-year phase-in period. OSHA proposes that the revisions become effective 60 days after the publication date, and that chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors evaluating substances comply with all modified provisions of HazCom no later than one year after the effective date. OSHA also proposes that chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors evaluating mixtures comply with all modified provisions no later than two years after the effective date.   

Q: Would a manufacturer be required to provide byproduct or off-gassing information caused by mixing of a two-part solution? Would this be covered under “normal conditions of use”? I have seen companies issue a SDS for Part A and one for Part B, but no information of the reaction process or final product. 

A: An OSHA letter of interpretation (LOI) from 2017 directly addresses this question, saying: 

“OSHA considers each tube containing Part A and Part B to be separate containers, and therefore, each tube must be individually labeled in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1). The HCS 2012 [HazCom] requires the manufacturer or importer to ensure that each container of hazardous chemicals leaving the workplace is labeled, tagged, or marked in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1)(i)-(vi). 

Additionally, section 1910.1200(g)(1) requires chemical manufacturers or importers to develop an SDS for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Because Parts A and B are distinct chemicals in separate containers, an SDS is required for each chemical. Single SDSs are permitted only when components have similar hazards and contents (i.e., the chemical ingredients are essentially the same, but the specific composition varies from mixture to mixture). See 1910.1200, Appendix A.  

When a manufacturer or importer intends for a chemical to be used with another chemical (e.g., two chemicals in dual containers will be mixed together, even for a short duration), and that use creates a new hazard, this information must be included on the SDSs for each hazardous chemical in the reaction products in Section 10(c) (Stability and reactivity) of the SDS. OSHA would require information on the safe handling and use of the reaction product in other sections of the SDS such as 4 (First-aid measures), 5 (fire-fighting measures), 6 (accidental release measures), 7 (handling and storage), and 8 (exposure controls/personal protection), if different than the individual components. See 1910.1200(g)(2). 

In brief, OSHA requires that two-part mixtures packaged together and specifically intended for combined use must include a full SDS for each component, and that each SDS must indicate all hazards that may be created under normal conditions of use (i.e. when mixed).  

Q: For “Trade Secrets”, are manufacturers allowed to withhold the chemical name in addition to the concentration ranges? 

A: Yes, you are eligible to withhold a chemical name from the SDS as “trade secret” information. OSHA’s NPRM states:  

“The chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer may withhold the specific chemical identity, including the chemical name, other specific identification of a hazardous chemical, or the exact percentage (concentration) or concentration range of the substance in a mixture, from section 3 of the safety data sheet, provided that: (i) The claim that the information withheld is a trade secret can be supported; (ii) Information contained in the safety data sheet concerning the properties and effects of the hazardous chemical is disclosed; (iii) The safety data sheet indicates that the specific chemical identity and/or concentration or concentration range of composition is being withheld as a trade secret.” 

However, there are situations where a chemical manufacturer, importer or employer must disclose any information withheld as trade secrets. Those situations include instances when a treating physician or licensed health care professional (PLHCP) determines that a medical emergency exists and the specific chemical identity and/or specific concentration or concentration range of a hazardous chemical is necessary for emergency or first-aid treatment. In such an emergency, the chemical manufacturer, importer or employer must immediately disclose the specific chemical identity or percentage composition of a trade secret chemical to that treating PLHCP, regardless of the existence of a written statement of need or a confidentiality agreement. The chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer may require a written statement of need and confidentiality agreement, in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs (i)(3) and (4) of this section as soon as circumstances permit. 

Chemical trade secret information must also be disclosed, upon request, to the DOL Assistant Secretary.  

There are a few additional considerations to be aware of when it comes to disclosing trade secret information to PLHCPs. For full information on trade secret requirements and restrictions of the proposed rule, refer to § 1910.1200(i). 

Q: Has anything been done to align the NFPA placard numbers with GHS hazard numbers – which are opposite in severity? 

A: There has not been any action by NFPA to align the numbering of hazard severity with the numbering scheme used to indicate hazard severity used in the GHS. NFPA hazard ratings are commonly found on hazardous chemical containers, and NFPA placards are actually required on chemical containers under some jurisdictions and safety regulations. OSHA and NFPA have concluded that NFPA hazard ratings do not conflict with the GHS hazard severity ratings required under the HazCom Standard, and if both NFPA placards and OSHA HazCom/GHS hazard information are present in the workplace, it is the obligation of the employer to ensure workers or other users of hazardous chemicals are trained to distinguish and understand the numbering scheme for each.  

Q: Is it important to photocopy only the first aid measures and place it beside your chemicals? 

A: There is not any requirement in the HazCom Standard that employers must post a printed copy of first aid measures on or near a hazardous chemical. However, what you must do is ensure workers have ready, unhindered access to SDSs for the chemicals used in the workplace, where they are used during work shifts. The SDS contains the first aid treatment information for the corresponding chemical.  

Rather than posting first aid information as a standalone physical document in areas where chemicals are located, it would be easier, less confusing and more accessible to make SDS information available via a mobile device that allows digital SDSs to be quickly searched, located and viewed, then filtered to display first aid information for the chemical of interest in the event of an exposure or other emergency.  

Q: Is it important to treat COSHH with your workers? 

A: While COSHH Risk Assessment is based on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) UK regulations, it has increasingly become a best practice process for other countries. A COSHH Risk Assessment is a systematic process that concentrates on the hazards and risks from hazardous substances in the workplace. To comply, the employer must assess the risk to health arising from hazardous substances present in the workplace, and then decide what precautions are needed to prevent or adequately control exposure to those hazards. 

The steps to performing a COSHH assessment include: 

  • Walk around your workplace. Where is there potential for exposure to substances that might be hazardous to health?
    Examples include processes that emit dust, fumes, vapor, mist or gas; and skin contact with liquids, pastes and dusts. Substances with workplace exposure limits (WELs) are hazardous to health. 
  • In what way are the substances harmful to health?
    The primary source of this information is the SDS, but some hazardous substances arise from processes and may have no safety data sheet. Examples include fumes from welding or soldering, mist from metalworking, dust from mining or processing of stone materials, gases from silage, etc. 
  • What jobs or tasks lead to exposure?
    Document individual job and task hazards by performing a job safety analysis (JSA) for each of the jobs performed in your workplace. This will help you to identify and evaluate not only the hazards, but also what control measures you already use and what additional controls are required. A JSA will also help you to calculate a risk rating to quantify the risk of a job or task, then prioritize those jobs/tasks for further controls.  
  • Are there any areas of concern, (e.g. from the Accident Book)?
    The Accident Book is an essential document for employers and employees, who are required by law to record and report details of specified work-related injuries and incidents. Referring to your Accident Book or other incident records can help you identify common hazards and incident types to focus on.  

HSE has provided specific guidance on COSHH assessment called A step by step guide to COSHH assessment. You can apply this to the hazardous substances in your workplace, but you must perform COSHH assessments if you are in the UK. More detailed guidance is in the free booklet on working with substances hazardous to health. Working with substances hazardous to health: What you need to know about COSHH. INDG136 

Q: How often can we update the SDS? 

A: When it comes to obtaining updated SDSs, OSHA’s HazCom Standard specifies that: 

  • Chemical manufacturers or importers shall ensure that distributors and employers are provided an appropriate safety data sheet with their initial shipment, and with the first shipment after a safety data sheet is updated; 
  • The chemical manufacturer or importer shall either provide safety data sheets with the shipped containers or send them to the distributor or employer prior to or at the time of the shipment; 
  • Distributors shall ensure that safety data sheets, and updated information, are provided to other distributors and employers with their initial shipment and with the first shipment after a safety data sheet is updated; 
  • If the safety data sheet is not provided with a shipment that has been labeled as a hazardous chemical, the distributor or employer shall obtain one from the chemical manufacturer or importer as soon as possible; and, 
  • The chemical manufacturer or importer shall also provide distributors or employers with a safety data sheet upon request. 

As far as actually updating the information on an SDS, OSHA’s HazCom Standard states: 

  • The chemical manufacturer, importer or employer preparing the safety data sheet shall ensure that the information provided accurately reflects the scientific evidence used in making the hazard classification. If the chemical manufacturer, importer or employer preparing the safety data sheet becomes newly aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical, or ways to protect against the hazards, this new information shall be added to the safety data sheet within three months. If the chemical is not currently being produced or imported, the chemical manufacturer or importer shall add the information to the safety data sheet before the chemical is introduced into the workplace again. 

Q: How do we hear the public hearing? 

A: OSHA indicated in its July 8, 2021 Federal Register notice that the informal public hearing to discuss the proposed HazCom updates will be held September 21, 2021. That Federal Register notice includes information about how to submit questions or testimony to be addressed during the hearing, if you are interested in submitting any inquiry. Further information about how to access the virtual meeting will be published on OSHA’s Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Hazard Communication Standard website when we get a little closer to the date of the hearing. In the past, OSHA has published virtual meeting times and links a few weeks prior to the meeting date, so be sure to check back regularly for updated meeting information.  

Q: It appears that the majority of the changes are for the manufacturers, what changes are purposed that will affect the end user? 

A: It is true that the bulk of the upcoming HazCom changes will have a more direct impact on manufacturers, importers and distributors who are responsible for re-evaluating and classifying the hazards of affected chemical classes, and creating updated SDSs and labels for those products. However, downstream users (i.e. end users) will also need to assess whether they have chemicals affected by the revised classifications (e.g., aerosols, desensitized explosives, flammable gases) in their workplace, and prepare to manage the influx of updated SDSs and labels that will accompany the changes as they go into effect. If you have chemicals affected by the proposed rule, you will also need to revise your written HazCom Plan and HazCom training program to ensure your workers understand the new classifications and new hazard and precautionary statements, and integrate these changes into their safe work practices. 

No matter where you are in the chemical supply chain, there will be a lot of work needed to get up to speed with new HazCom requirements. With the right tools in place, you and your workforce will be better prepared. 

Let VelocityEHS Help!

When it comes to chemical hazard communication, VelocityEHS is the industry leader. Our award-winning VelocityEHS chemical management solutions have helped thousands of customers and millions of users worldwide simplify compliance with hazardous communication requirements and improve workplace chemical safety, while our in-house team of SDS Authoring and chemical safety experts help you ensure that your SDSs are 100% in-compliance with hazard communication regulations and chemical safety best practices around the globe. 

To learn how VelocityEHS can help you simplify compliance with HazCom, WHMIS and other global GHS-aligned hazard communication standards, request a Demo today or call us at 1.888.362.2007.