The federal Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This update to the HCS provides a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets.
The revised standard improves the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals.
This update also helps reduce trade barriers and results in productivity improvements for American businesses that regularly handle, store, and use hazardous chemicals. Standardized labeling also provides cost savings for American businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered under the hazard communication standard.
Hazard communication standard
In order to ensure chemical safety in the workplace, information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires the development and dissemination of such information:
- Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers.
- All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.
Major changes to the hazard communication standard
- Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
- Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
- Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
- Information and training: Employers are required to train employees on the GHS label elements and safety data sheet format to facilitate recognition and understanding. Employee training must happen at the time of their first assignment, when any new chemicals arrive, and when new chemical hazards are identified.
Below are some links to information on the OSHA website and from other sources to help you complete the requirements by the above noted dates.
- Safe At Work California: Hazard Labeling Safety Meeting Topic – Train your employees on the GHS process including labels, pictograms, and safety data sheets.
- OSHA Training Tutorial – Understanding GHS Safety Data Sheets – this video (19:34) will help employees understand the new GHS format for Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
- OSHA Training Tutorial – Understanding the GHS Labeling System – this video (16:29) will help employees understand the GHS Labeling System.
- OSHA Training Toolbox Talks – check out these GHS topics to use for Safety Meetings.
Links to downloadable information from OSHA
- OSHA Brief – Safety Data Sheets – details Safety Data Sheets in the GHS standard.
- OSHA Brief – Labels and Pictograms – details labels and pictograms in the GHS standard.
- OSHA Wallet Cards – printable Hazard Communication card with GHS Pictograms.
- OSHA Pictograms – GHS pictograms to download for use in creating materials and/or training.
- Publications – Globally Harmonized System (GHS) – This page provides OSHA GHS publications to download and print or to order.
- HCS/HazCom 2012 Final Rule & Appendices – In this final rule, OSHA modified its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to conform to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.