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OSHA Hazard Communication Standards


In 2003, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS includes criteria for the classification of health, physical and environmental hazards, as well as specifying what information should be included on labels of hazardous chemicals as well as safety data sheets. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a proposed rulemaking on September 30, 2009 to align OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (HCS) with the GHS. The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on March 26, 2012 and became effective May 25, 2012

The Agency's enforcement position on the HCS will go into effect on June 1, 2015. This requires manufacturers and importers, including product formulators to exercise reasonable diligence and good faith to classify their chemical mixtures according to HCS 2012 and consequently develop HCS 2012-compliant SDSs and labels.

OSHA will recognize those who have tried and documented their efforts in gathering classification information from upstream suppliers of raw materials. The enforcement guidance addresses when manufacturers and importers must develop HCS 2012-compliant SDSs and labels after receiving upstream supplier SDSs, as well as how this guidance affects distributors.

Major proposed changes to the HCS:

Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.

Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to 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. (SDSs)

Information and training: The GHS does not address training. However, the proposed HCS will require that workers are trained within two years of the publication of the final rule to facilitate recognition and understanding of the new labels and safety data sheets.

IWLA Chemical Council Member Checklist for ComplianceChemical_Council

Develop HCS 2012-compliant safety data sheets and labels. 

Upstream raw material suppliers must provide HCS 2012-compliant SDSs to downstream manufacturers or importers with the first shipment and after an SDS is updated.

If not provided on first shipment, manufacturers and importers must ask upstream raw materials provider to provide this information to protect yourself from receiving a violation.

If information is not provided to the downstream manufacturer, you must establish "reasonable diligence" and "good faith efforts.” A manufacturer or importer must provide written/dated documentation of its substantive efforts to:

  • Obtain classification information and SDSs from upstream suppliers;
  • Find hazard information from alternative sources (e.g., chemical registries); and,
  • Classify the data themselves.

Have a reasonable timeline for the upstream raw materials provider to provide the information before June 1.

Manufacturer or importer provide a clear timeline for when it expects to comply with HCS 2012.

Safety Data Sheets: HCS 2012-compliant SDSs must be created within 6 months of receiving the information. If new information is provided, SDSs must be updated within 3 months.

These should be circulated downstream to employer.

Safety Data Sheets: HCS 2012-compliant SDSs must be created within 6 months of receiving the

Labels: HCS 2012-compliant labels must be created within 6 months of creating the SDSs. If new information is provided, labels must be updated on the containers within 6 months of learning the new information.

Those have not received all the necessary classification and SDS information from upstream suppliers to classify the mixture under HCS 2012 shall continue to use MSDSs and labels that conform to HCS 1994. 

HCS 2012 permits distributors to continue to ship chemicals with HCS 1994 labels until December 1, 2015 if not given proper information within the June 1, 2015 time frame.


*Sample Notification Letter to Request SDSs/Label Information from Upstream Materials Provider

OSHA Enforcement Guide

Classification and Labeling Summary Table

Hazard Communication Safety Data Sheets

Hazard Communication Standard Labels

Hazard Communication Standard Pictograms

Steps to an Effective Hazard Communication Program for Employers that Use Hazardous Chemicals

Training Requirements for the Revised Hazard Communication Standard

* The 3PL should ensure that the letter is acceptable for use on its own and neither the IWLA, nor the Chemical Council, warranty its effectiveness.

For more information about the OSHA Hazard Communication Standards or about the IWLA Chemical Council contact or call 847.813.4699. 

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