Rio de Janeiro

rioOSHA’s major 2012 update to its Hazard Communications System (HCS) is designed to harmonize U.S. requirements with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, developed by the Inter-Organization Program for Sound Management of Chemicals, a U.N. program created under a treaty singed at the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

We can debate the public welfare value of global harmonization and further question whether OSHA’s 2012 HCS contributes to it, but whatever its value, OSHA’s new regulation requires chemical importers, manufacturers, formulators (companies producing mixtures, like many paints and coatings, and unsaturated polyester resin), distributers and users to change over to an entirely new system for characterizing and communicating chemical hazard and safety information.

HCS-2012 requires suppliers to provide compliant new labels and safety data sheets for hazardous substances by July 1, 2015. (Users of chemicals – “employers” in OSHA’s vernacular – were required to train employees on the new label and SDS formats by December 2013.) For the most part, to properly characterize hazards on their own, SDS chemical manufacturers and formulators will rely on hazard characterizations provided by their suppliers via updated SDS. But formulators are not likely to receive updated SDS from their suppliers until just before the July 1 deadline for issuance of their own updated SDS.

To get composites material suppliers out of this catch-22, ACMA worked with a large coalition to delay the HCS-2012 compliance deadline for product labels and SDS. In its response to this effort, OSHA agreed that companies relying on suppliers for hazard information could continue to comply with the old 1994-HCS, as long as they were making good faith efforts to obtain HCS-2012-compliant information from suppliers and had written plans for updating labels and SDS when the information was obtained.