environmental

OSHA Hints at New Timeline for HazCom Final Rule on SCHC Call

OSHA News

By Phil Molé

On November 1 through 5, 2021 the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC) hosted their Fall Meeting with OSHA officials to bring stakeholders up-to-speed on the proposed changes to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom) published by OSHA earlier in 2021. Janet Carter, Senior Health Scientist at USDOL/OSHA, and Sven J. Rundman III, Supervisory Industrial Hygienist with the USDOL/OSHA participated in the hearing on behalf of the agency.

In what follows, we’ll discuss takeaways from the call pertaining to the next steps for OSHA’s rulemaking to update HazCom.

The Background

OSHA published a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to update the HazCom Standard on February 16, 2021 by aligning it with Revision 7 of the UN’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The NPRM proposed a number of major updates, including revised classifications for flammable gases, aerosols, and desensitized explosives, revised requirements for “small” and “very small” shipped containers, revised shipping requirements for “bulk shipments,” and requirements for classification of hazards under “normal conditions of use,” including those resulting from chemical reactions and physical changes. According to the NPRM, manufacturers of substances would have one year from the effective date of the eventual final rule to comply, while manufacturers of mixtures would have two years from that date.

Because of the impacts these changes would have throughout the chemical supply chain, especially on manufacturers of affected chemical products, OSHA received a great deal of stakeholder feedback up to the time the public comment period ended on May 19, 2021. OSHA also held a public hearing on September 21-23, 2021 to allow additional commentary by stakeholders who’d submitted a Notice of Intent to Appear (NOITA) by the established deadline.

As we’ve previously blogged about, stakeholders at the public hearing had a great deal to say about many aspects of the NPRM, and also consistently argued that the proposed compliance timeline was too short. OSHA gave participants in the public hearing until November 22, 2021 to submit additional documentation and additional information requested by OSHA during their testimony. Many stakeholders have been wondering since the September hearing ended how the volume of feedback received by OSHA might affect the timeline of the publication of the final rule, which is the single most important factor affecting the compliance transition timeline.

Hints of a New Timeline

Not surprisingly, stakeholders took the opportunity during the Q & A portion of the SCHC Fall Meeting call to ask OSHA representatives about the timeline for next steps for the HazCom rulemaking. Janet Carter of OSHA provided the following information in response.

  • OSHA is still processing transcripts from testimony during the September hearing, and will post them to the docket for the rulemaking once they receive them from the court reporter.

 

  • OSHA will re-open the docket only for those stakeholders who’d submitted a NOITA for participation in the September hearing. OSHA will keep the docket open for those stakeholders until December 22, 2021.

 

  • Carter stated that she does not expect OSHA to publish a final rulemaking until December of 2022.

That last piece of information is arguably the most significant. It would appear to indicate that OSHA has a substantial amount of work to do in preparing the final rule, and gives an indication of the earliest likely date when the transition timeline would begin. We do not know, as of this point, whether OSHA will act on stakeholder input to extend the transition timelines for manufacturers of substances and mixtures, and may not know until the final rule actually appears.

It should be noted that as of this date, there is no independent verification of the information shared by OSHA reps on the SCHC call, including through press releases by OSHA or additions to OSHA’s HazCom website. This information should therefore be taken as tentative and potentially subject to change. However, we’ll share any additional updates as we learn them, so be sure to check back on this space often, and follow us on social media to make sure you stay in the loop!

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HazCom, OSHA