On Monday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule from its Occupational Safety and Health Administration updating the current Hazard Communication Standard to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

In a May 20 news release, the agency said the update would provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals, communicating hazard information, and improving the amount and quality of information on labels and safety data sheets. The revision will allow workers and first responders to react more quickly in an emergency; the updates take effect July 19. 

Aligned primarily with the seventh revision of the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, the updated standard will require labels on small packaging to be more comprehensive and readable and make changes to help ensure trade secrets no longer prevent workers and first responders from receiving critical hazard information on safety data sheets. 

Other changes in the updated standard will benefit workers, including a more evident hazard classification process to provide more complete and accurate hazard information on labels and safety data sheets; updated physical hazard classes to better inform users on the safe handling of explosives, aerosols and chemicals under pressure; and updated precautionary statements on how to safely handle, store and dispose of hazardous chemicals.

The final rule also addresses issues that arose after the implementation of the 2012 standard and now aligns with other federal agencies and Canada.  

Hazard Communication Standard

OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires the development and dissemination of such information:

Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers;

All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.

Major Changes to the Hazard Communication Standard

  • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for the classification of health and physical hazards and the classification of mixtures.
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide labels that include 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.
  • Information and Training: To facilitate recognition and understanding, employers must train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheet format.

Established in 1983, the Hazard Communication Standard provides a standardized approach to workplace hazard communications associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals. OSHA updated the standard in 2012 to align with the third revision of the GHS to provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information. 

For more information, visit osha.gov/hazcom.

OSHA has produced a short video about the improved rules; watch it in ENGLISH or SPANISH.