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Home > > 4 Major Updates to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard

4 Major Updates to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard

Trent Cotney, Partner and Construction Team Co-leader

New classification, label and training requirements, set to take effect July 19, seek to protect workers from the dangers of chemicals on jobsites.

DRAGON CLAWS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

On every jobsite, maintaining a safe environment is a top priority. With this in mind, the Department of Labor recently announced revisions to the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. 

These updates are intended to more effectively protect workers, including those on construction jobsites, by improving labels and safety data sheets, enabling both workers and first responders to react promptly in an emergency. The revisions take effect July 19. 

What is the purpose of the standard? 

The Hazard Communication Standard, first established in 1983, requires information about chemicals to be readily available to workers. This information must be easy to understand and must address the hazards and identities of chemicals present on worksites.  

To accomplish that, chemical manufacturers and importers must acknowledge the dangers of these products and communicate those through labels and safety data sheets. Employers must ensure that those labels and data sheets are available to their workers, and they must train those workers to safely handle the materials. 

What are the changes? 

The recent revisions to the Hazard Communication Standard fall into four categories. 

  1. Classification: There are now specific criteria for classifying the physical and health hazards of chemicals and chemical mixtures. 
  2. Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers are now required to provide labels with signal words, pictograms and hazard statements for all classes of chemicals. 
  3. Safety data sheets: These documents will now follow a specific format divided into 16 sections. 
  4. Training: Employers must explain the new labels and data sheets to their workers and provide them with training to understand these items. 

In 2012, the standard was updated to align with the third revision of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, produced by the United Nations. The updates align with the seventh revision of the GHS.  

In addition to making the labels and data sheets easier to comprehend, the changes ensure that companies’ trade secrets will no longer impede the transfer of pertinent information to workers and first responders.  

How will construction workers benefit? 

The standard’s revisions will enable workers to better understand the chemical hazards on the jobsite, and fines can be issued to firms who are not in compliance with OSHA standards. Employees will be better informed about how to use aerosols, explosives and other pressurized chemicals common on construction sites, and they will receive updated information on ways to handle, store and dispose of these materials. 

The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice and should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

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