Over the past few years, OSHA has been slowly unrolling a shift in MSDS and MSDS management requirements to fit the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for safety management. These changes concluded in June, 2016, with all companies expected to be in compliance with these new MSDS solutions by that point in time. Fortunately, although some companies may be confused as to what they need to do to be in compliance, doing so is actually quite simple. OSHA and GHS safety compliance can be broken down into three main categories.
New GHS Safety Data Sheet Format
Previously, OSHA used multiple types of safety data sheets, with no standardized format. Conversion to the GHS system has added the implementation of a standardized safety data sheet format to ensure all sheets contain the same required information. The term MSDS has also been standardized to SDS. The new GHS-compliant SDS contains 16 sections of information that must be provided for any chemical requiring an SDS.
These updated MSDS solutions require companies to update any safety data sheets they have produced and update any stored sheets with the new versions. Compliance requires that all employees and customers have access to the updated-format GHS data sheets.
New GHS Label Format
Along with the safety data sheet, the formatting of labels for hazardous chemicals has also changed. Just as before, these labels must be included on containers of any sold or stored chemicals but with a new format. The current GHS compliant label has 6 points of information that must be documented in a specific layout that includes the use of standardized pictograms. Although the pictograms are similar to ones previously used by OSHA and still self-explanatory icons, they are now all black and white with a slightly different look.
New Workplace Labeling Format
The biggest compliancy change that a company will see with the updated OSHA/GHS MSDS management is in workplace labeling and the meaning of those labels. The former Hazardous Material Identification System (HMIS) of labeling has been replaced with a new sticker and a new hierarchy of hazard classification. The new label is actually easier to interpret since categories are directly printed in text; however, the numerical system used to classify hazard severity has been completely changed. OSHA HMIS labels grade the severity of a hazard from 0 to 4, with 0 meaning a minimal hazard and 4 meaning a severe one. The GHS label use 1 to indicate a severe hazard and 5 to indicate a minimal one.
The standardization of safety data sheets and hazardous substance container labels is a very positive change, one that should be easy for most companies to adapt to and maintain MSDS compliance. With regards to workplace labeling, it is still critical for companies to train all employees on the new MSDS solutions and be sure they understand the new labeling system. By tackling these three main areas of the new GHS hazard identification and labeling system, companies will be able to bring their MSDS management programs into complete compliance with OSHA’s current requirements.