03 August 1998 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]A bill designed to simplify the federally required process for distributing information about hazardous chemicals in the workplace was approved unanimously last week by a House committee. By voice vote, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed legislation sponsored by Reps. Kay Granger (R-Tex.) and Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) that would amend the Occupational Safety and Health AdministrationÕs hazard communication standard.
OSHAÕs guideline requires manufacturers and suppliers of chemicals to include material safety data sheets (MSDSs) with their products to alert workers to potential health and safety hazards and appropriate handling procedures and protective gear.
The bill would mandate that such information be made available to employees through electronic access, CD-ROMs or web sites on the Internet.
Supporters say that paper filing systems are antiquated and more burdensome to use.
The legislation would clarify that employers who use electronic data systems to retrieve worksheets on hazardous materials, rather than keeping paper copies of the information on file, would be in compliance with OSHA requirements.
The information is used by chemical companies and their employees as well as by emergency responders, health care providers and fire departments.
The billÕs requirements would take effect 18 months after enactment. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate in March by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The committee approved an amendment offered by Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.) that would require the Secretary of Labor to study the usefulness of the hazard information made available to industrial workers and to circulate any report to chemical companies and other suppliers of MSDSs.
Rep. Roemer stresses that the legislation is a bipartisan effort and notes that input obtained from chemical manufacturers, small business representatives and the AFL-CIO Òensures that this bill enhances worker safety.Ó
Rep. Ballenger says the measure is Òa simple but important step toward improvingÓ the OSHA hazard communication standard. He says that small companies, in particular, would benefit from using electronic systems to access MSDSs.
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