Business Workshop: OSHA revises its 'hazard communications standard'
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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently revised its "hazard communications standard."
The new standard aligns OSHA with the United Nations' global chemical labeling standard. Once fully implemented, OSHA expects the new regulations to prevent an estimated 43 deaths and result in about $475.2 million in productivity savings annually for U.S. businesses.
As many businesses know, OSHA's hazard communications standard is the most often cited of all OSHA regulations. This standard requires chemical labeling; the maintenance of material safety data sheets; and safety training of employees.
The labeling is under the control of the manufacturer, but employers are required to comply with the workplace-related provisions. Any business that has undergone an OSHA inspection knows that compliance officers invariably focus on these matters.
The revision of the standard ensures consistent practices both nationally and internationally. OSHA's new standard will classify chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and establish consistent labels and safety data sheets for all chemicals made in the United States and imported from abroad.
Once fully phased in by 2016, the revised standard is expected to prevent an estimated 585 injuries and illnesses annually. It is intended to reduce trade barriers and result in productivity improvements for American business that regularly handle, store and use hazardous chemicals. OSHA estimates cost savings of $32.2 million alone will accrue to businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered in the standard.
Any business that utilizes chemical substances in the workplace should request updated materials from its suppliers and plan to initiate new hazard communications and training in the workplace to comply with the new standard.
Keep in mind that employee training on the new standard must be completed by the end of 2013.
-- Jane Lewis Volk, Meyer, Unkovic & Scott,
First Published June 25, 2012 12:00 am