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Enhancements to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standards

OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has recently amended its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), found in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200. This amendment is in alignment with Revision 7 (Rev. 7) of the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The revisions, outlined in 89 Fed. Reg. 44,144 (May 20, 2024), encompass changes to hazard classification criteria, labeling provisions, and concentrations claimed as trade secrets. Compliance with these new provisions is required in stages, with deadlines set between January 19, 2026, and January 19, 2028.

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) was initially introduced by OSHA in 1983 to standardize communication regarding workplace hazards associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals. It mandates that chemical manufacturers and importers determine hazards associated with their products and convey that information on labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) provided to downstream recipients.

OSHA’s adoption of Rev. 7 of the GHS aligns the HCS with other domestic agencies and international trading partners, including Canada and the EU, which adopted similar rules in 2023. This update aims to ensure accurate hazardous chemical warnings based on available evidence and streamline compliance for large corporations subject to consistent international standards.

The revisions bring about significant changes, including adjustments to hazard classifications, labeling standards, and SDS requirements. Notably, hazard classifications now take into account the “reasonably anticipated uses” of a chemical, offering more flexibility for manufacturers and importers.

In terms of labeling, small containers are no longer required to contain complete hazard information if the immediate outer package includes it. Additionally, stakeholders may present limited information on containers smaller than 100 ml, provided complete information is available on the immediate outer package. OSHA also clarified labeling processes, allowing electronic transmission of labels only with recipient consent.

SDSs, which provide detailed safety and technical information about hazardous chemicals, have also undergone revisions. They now have more flexibility, allowing coverage of groups of hazardous chemicals rather than addressing each chemical individually. SDSs have been updated to align with Rev. 7, including changes to physical and chemical properties sections and the addition of new toxicological information.

A significant change involves the claiming of ingredient concentration ranges as trade secrets, providing manufacturers and importers with more flexibility. Prescribed ranges are established, aligning with Canada’s system to ensure consistency across workplaces.

Deadlines for compliance vary depending on the substance or mixture, with manufacturers, importers, and distributors required to comply by January 19, 2026, for substances and July 19, 2027, for mixtures. Employers must update labeling, hazard communication programs, and employee training accordingly.

DC IP Lawyers advise: As the amendments take effect, chemical manufacturers, importers, and users must review their hazard classifications, labels, and SDSs to ensure compliance. While phased compliance deadlines are provided, timely implementation is crucial to meet regulatory requirements. Employers should align workplace labeling, hazard communication programs, and training with the revised Hazard Communication Standard to ensure a safe working environment

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