There are now less than two months to go before the deadline when manufacturers or distributors of hazardous chemical products must change product labels and send Safety Data Sheets to their customers. Many companies are waiting until the due date before they provide these documents that are required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration under its Hazard Communications standard. In fact, the website MSDS Online in and article titled: Compliance Alert-June 1st Deadline stated the following in the opening paragraph. “When OSHA revised the Hazard Communication Standard to align with GHS, it selected June 1, 2015 as the deadline by which chemical manufacturers and distributors were to complete the process of reclassifying hazardous chemicals and to have updated all safety data sheets and labels to GHS formats. MSDSonline believes it unlikely that all manufacturers and distributors will have completed this task by that date.” For the full article click here.
So what should an employer do? OSHA places responsibility on the manufacturer or distributor of the hazardous product to develop the Safety Data Sheet and provide it, and subsequent updates, at least one time to its customers. MSDS online recommends notifying your suppliers that you expect to receive a Safety Data Sheet by the June 1st deadline. I agree. From a compliance standpoint, your company will be the one who has to explain to OSHA why you do not have a Safety Data Sheet for a hazardous chemical at your workplace. It will go much more smoothly if you can show that you have attempted to obtain SDSs from your supplier. OSHA will follow up with the manufacturer if necessary.
If the June 1st date comes and you haven’t received a Safety Data Sheet for the product, you may choose to refuse shipment. One thing to keep in mind is that OSHA has given manufacturers up to December 1 of this year to clear their inventory of products that have MSDSs and old labels. It may be difficult to prove the source of the product. OSHA also encourages you to notify the agency if you are not getting cooperation from a distributor.
In the scope of its standard OSHA states the following:
“This section requires chemical manufacturers or importers to classify the hazards of chemicals which they produce or import, and all employers to provide information to their employees about the hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed, by means of a hazard communication program, labels and other forms of warning, safety data sheets, and information and training. In addition, this section requires distributors to transmit the required information to employers. (Employers who do not produce or import chemicals need only focus on those parts of this rule that deal with establishing a workplace program and communicating information to their workers.)” Emphasis added.
With that in mind, two steps employers need to take now include updating your Hazard Communications Written Plan to reflect the new requirements and to provide training to employees. Training on the new system was to be done by December 1, 2013. These are employer responsibilities that OSHA will evaluate during an inspection.
We will continue to monitor this and let you know by mid May if anything has changed. In the meantime, be sure to do your part to make sure employees understand how to work safely with hazardous chemicals. Update your written program and train your employees.
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