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Hazard Communication – 2012 Changes You May Have Missed

- September 24, 2018 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

Back in 2012, changes to the OSHA hazard communication standard went into effect. The change aligned the standard with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS,) which is an international approach to Hazard Communication. The reason for the change was to bring the United States more in line with the rest of the world. Most companies took action per the deadlines OSHA set to have all their employees changed and all their Safety Data Sheets updated, but we are still finding some of our customers do not know about the change, so I wanted to address this again for those who missed it before.

The changes included improvement to labels, and a reformat of the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS). Labels now require four elements: a pictogram, signal words, a hazard statement for each hazard class and category and a precautionary statement must be provided. MSDS will now be called Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and have a more uniform format of 16 sections in a specified sequence. This allows for greater consistency from manufacturers and suppliers and will make it easier to locate the necessary information.

Changes to the Hazard Communication Standard became law on May 25, 2012, and training of all employees on the changes and updates to the newer Safety Data Sheets should have already been completed by all employers who use chemicals.  However, its never too late to communicate this important safety message to your employees. You should review the OSHA fact sheet on safety data sheets and labels and pictograms and conduct training with your employees at your next safety meeting.  You should document the training that includes showing employees what the new SDS looks like and how to read it.  You should also review your hazard communication binder or electronic files to verify that all your data sheets are all in the 16 section format.  If they aren’t, contact your supplier to get an updated version.

If you didn’t complete the training, put this on the agenda for your next safety meeting. Although this may seem arbitrary, it’s still important to cover the changes with employees. When injury or illness occurs related to a chemical, knowing how to find the proper first aid response promptly can make a huge difference in the outcome for the affected employee.

The ICW Group RMRx Safety Adviser or your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant can provide more resources for you on the subject.


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