OSHA is Making Changes to Chemical Labels

OSHA is making changes.  And over the next several months, in fact over the next several years, facility mangers of manufacturing locations will become increasingly aware of some major changes in the ways certain chemicals, including professional cleaning chemicals, are labeled.

What is happening is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has modified the Hazard Communications Standard (HCS) used in the United States. These modifications are designed to make chemical information, labels and especially warning labels, both similar to and more consistent with those used in many other countries around the world according to the U.N. Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

But why the changes?  After all, many of these labels and chemical warning systems have been in place for decades.  Further, many manufacturers say the changes are likely to cost them thousands of dollars, printing up new labels and related materials.

However OSHA answers this by saying that more than 43 million American workers handle or work with hazardous chemicals every year. OSHA expects that these changes to the HCS will prevent at least 500 injuries and 43 fatalities per year. Additionally, OSHA believes the changes will result in the following benefits:

• Less confusion in the workplace as to how to handle hazardous chemicals
• Greater safety training to help prevent accidents and injuries
• Quicker, simpler, and more consistent access to information on these products
• A potential cost savings to American business of an estimated $475 million
• Fewer trade barriers by harmonizing hazard warning systems with those in other countries around the globe

OSHA acknowledges that these changes will take time to implement and may be somewhat costly for manufacturers because labels and product information must be changed. But it believes that in time the benefits of improved worker safety will far outweigh these hurdles.

Plus, it is possible that the standardized labeling may open new markets of opportunity for manufacturers. If so, sales in new markets may provide a return on the investment of changing and updating labels.