OSHA Administrator Updates Product Stewards

The June 1, 2015 deadline for chemical manufacturers and distributors to comply with GHS standards came and went. Two days later, Maureen Ruskin, office director for the Office of Chemical Hazards–Metals at OSHA, stood before product stewards in Salt Lake City to discuss OSHA’s enforcement of the new standard.

Because some formulators were having trouble getting information from suppliers, OSHA reviewed its enforcement policy, Ruskin said. As a result, companies are permitted to use labels compliant with the 1994 rules. Producers of mixtures may continue to use compliant 1994 labels. To avoid citation, however, companies will need to show that they conducted “reasonable diligence” to get the information needed from their supplier.

As for what constitutes “reasonable diligence” and “good faith,” Ruskin explained that compliance officers will look for whether manufacturers or importers have made efforts before June 1 to get the information through written and oral communications from suppliers. Each situation will be decided on case-by-case basis. Also important is the need for companies to document that they are still trying to get the information. Compliance officers will also look to ensure that companies have a course of action to completing their SDS and labels. “Additionally, for manufacturers, they will be looking to see whether you’ve had any contact with your distributors as well to let them know how this is progressing,” said Ruskin.

The new enforcement guidance also addresses questions about existing label stock. Ruskin explained that existing stock already packaged for shipment will not need to be re-labeled. However, OSHA decided that the new information is important for downstream users, so an HCS 2012 compliant label will have to be available for the client.

On Packaging

“We also get some questions on inner and outer packages,” Ruskin said. OSHA requires labeling on the immediate container. If the shipped container and immediate container are the same, then HCS and DOT labeling is required.

For small packages, OSHA encourages the use of tags, pull-out labels or fold-back labels. For products with multiple chemicals in a package, such as epoxy, each side should be labeled, since worker could be exposed to each individual chemical.

“I know transition is difficult. I don’t want anyone to think I think this has been easy on anyone,” said Ruskin. “The main purpose of this standard is not only to be globally harmonized but also to create better information for the downstream users of these chemicals.”


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