We continue to hear from clients that they are not receiving Safety Data Sheets from their suppliers. Today is June 9 and the OSHA deadline for compliance with global harmonization system (GHS) requirements was June 1. Some suppliers are continuing to provide material safety data sheets and others haven’t prepared either an MSDS or SDS. Many have claimed that they have no idea about the new requirements. OSHA enacted the changes in 2012 and the first deadline for employee training was December 1. Companies had an additional 18 months after that date to comply with the bulk of the changes. So what gives?
I believe that some companies are being truthful in claiming they weren’t aware of the requirements. Not all companies are members of large trade organizations that monitor OSHA.activity. The day to day media may have had a story on it when OSHA first enacted the standard, but let’s face it, a new OSHA standard is not going to stay on the news cycle for much more than the time it takes to write the story.
Other companies believe that the requirements don’t apply to them. The term hazardous chemical is not normally associated with many of the materials that are used for work; such as spray paints, solvents, fuels and cleaners. Most people when they hear the word hazardous chemical are thinking about chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and hydrocloric acid for example. Tank cars and tank farms come to mind when the term hazardous chemical is used. Companies who were of the belief that they weren’t subject to the previous haz com rules probably don’t believe they need to comply with the new ones.
The new rules also captured many industries that were not subject to requirements for labels and/or safety data sheets in the past. Industries that process metals, plastics, and wood now need to address the hazards of dust created by these products when they create dust. Companies that handle grain or products with grain were also included in industries with the OSHA-defined dust explosion hazards. These companies face the reality that many of their suppliers have not developed SDSs to meet the compliance deadline.
There also are misunderstanding regarding a notice OSHA posted to its website in February regarding an extension of the deadline. OSHA was hearing from industry groups that members were not receiving the information they needed from upstream suppliers that they needed to write their SDSs. OSHA acknowledged the problem by agreeing to an extension for compliance to no later than December 1, as long as companies were making a good faith effort to obtain the information needed to develop SDSs. This is not an “oh great, we now can wait until December 1, 2015” extension. OSHA will be checking to make sure that information truly was not available. Companies need to periodically check back as part of their due diligence and good faith efforts.
. OSHA is in the process of developing a more extensive enforcement directive. In the meantime the agency has issues a new memorandum to replace the earlier one. This memorandum describes the actions OSHA expects to be taken for companies to prove its due diligence and good faith efforts. Here is a link to the OSHA Memorandum. Hazard Communications is a standard that is always on the list of top ten standard violations and we can expect that it will be pushing toward number 1 on that list once OSHA begins to enforce the standard.
Put it all together and it is easy to see why many companies who want to comply don’t have the information they need. Compliance with the Hazard Communications Standard, specifically the Safety Data Sheet and labeling requirement, means that each company is dependent on the action of many others to comply. I’m not certain that OSHA understands this well.
Here are a few steps you can take now to do your diligence should your efforts come into question during an OSHA inspection:
If your company is required to prepare labels and/or safety data sheets for products and your suppliers are not sending you the information you need to comply, be sure to do your due diligence and document efforts to receive this information. If feasible you should switch to a supplier that is complying. OSHA would expect this to be done. This will sort itself out in time. For now, do what you can to comply. Above all, don’t lose focus on what this should be about and that is providing safe conditions for your employees who handle hazardous chemical products.
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