In 2012, OSHA announced that it would be adopting the standards outlined in the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of hazard identification, labeling, and handling. In doing so, the organization provided new GHS rules pertaining to  Environment, Health and Safety or EHS. and a calendar by which companies were to update their safety communications programs to be in compliance. The deadline of June 1, 2016 has now come and gone. Any companies not yet in EHS compliance with the new standards must be immediately concerned about updating this important information to avoid potential safety violations.

The Purpose of Updating to the GHS

The Globally Harmonized System of labeling and handling hazardous chemicals was created to provide a standardized way for all countries to identify hazards and understand proper safety handling. Although much of the information provided through this system is the same as what was provided by OSHA, the GHS was standardized to provide the same information in the same format, making it more effective. OSHA agreed to update their systems to meet these standards in 2012 and has been in the process of implementing an updated identification and labeling system ever since that time.

Current GHS and OSHA Safety Requirements

The main improvements to current safety communication requirements were safety data sheets, hazard labels, and chemical classification. Based on the new GHS protocol, all countries will use the same warning classification system for hazardous chemicals. In light of this, the reclassification of some chemicals to reflect this new, standardized system may be necessary for companies who generated the original MSDS and safety label information.

A new SDS, which now contains 16 specific points of information, has been created along with a new safety label using standardized icons and information. These three elements comprise the bulk of hazard communication and EHS in the workplace. To be in EHS compliance, employers must update their current communication systems to reflect these standards.

Updating Employer Hazard Communication Programs

With new SDS and warning labels as well as a new method of classifying dangerous chemicals and interpreting hazard warnings, employers must update their safety protocols and provide proper employee training. Companies must rework their current hazard communications program to include updated safety data sheets and labels as well as educate all employees about the significance of these updates.

All old MSDS and warning labels, including generated SDS and labels as well as those printed for internal use and distribution, should be replaced with new versions before an employer will be considered to be in compliance. Employees must begin working within the newer safety guidelines and understand the new hazard rating system and standardized hazard icons and terminology.

On June 1, 2016, OSHA started to enforce the new GHS standards for hazardous chemical classification, safety information documentation, and labeling. Businesses have had about four years to bring their current safety communications into compliance with this new EHS protocol. With a new year on the way, now is a great time for employers to re-evaluate their hazard communication to determine whether they are in EHS compliance and make any changes that may still be necessary!

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