Maintaining an effective safety program in general industry is a never ending battle for a safety manager, especially when it comes to hazard communication. Under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), containers of hazardous chemicals are required only to have a label written in English. It is not required to label the container in the language of the employees, though it is recommended. It is only required that employees be trained in the language they understand. These requirements leave lots of room for error and misunderstanding.
In March, the United States jumped on board with many other counties to participate in the United Nation’s Global Harmonization System (GHS). Under the GHS, changes to chemical labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS, formerly MSDS) will be implemented. Such changes streamline and unify label wording, pictograms, and structure. This new system will reduce the need for testing and evaluation of chemicals as well as ensure that chemical hazards and be identified internationally.
The GHS implements two major changes. Unlike the HCS, hazards under the GHS are not just classified but are also subdivided into categories. This not only identifies the hazard of the chemical, but also the severity. Another change seen with the GHS is the new format to the safety data sheets and labels. A uniform structure and order of sections has been developed for the new SDS. GHS safety labels now require six standardized elements.
These elements include:
- Product Identifier
- Manufacturer Information
- Hazard Pictograms
- Signal Words
- Hazard Statements
- Precautionary Statements
Along with all these changes, safety managers need to be aware of the timeline implemented by OHSA for compliance with the GHS. With the new year approaching, preparing for the GHS should begin now. Some chemical manufacturers have already restructured the SDS sheet and have begun distribution. It is important for the safety manager to be aware to the new changes and be prepared to train employees.
Don’t let GHS and changes to hazard communication cause distress, feel free to contact EverGreen for more information of the GHS and help incorporating the new system into your heath and safety program.