US moves to align hazmat labels with UN standards

20 March 2012 22:52  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US on Tuesday moved to align its hazardous chemicals labelling and other safe-use information with UN global standards, a shift welcomed by a major US chemicals sector trade group.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that it has revised its hazard communication standard for chemicals to coincide with the UN’s globally harmonised system (GHS) for classification and labelling.

OSHA, part of the Department of Labor (DOL), said that in aligning with the UN programme, its new standards would “improve the quality, consistency and clarity of hazard information that workers receive”.

The new standards, said OSHA, will classify chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and establish consistent labels and safety data sheets (SDS) for all chemicals produced domestically or imported.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) welcomed the move, although it said it would reserve final judgement until it had an opportunity to fully review the 858-page OSHA hazards communications revisions.

“We are very pleased that [OSHA] is addressing the need for consistent information on workplace chemicals,” said ACC vice president Mike Walls.

Walls, who heads the council’s regulatory and technical affairs section, said that the globally harmonised system is “an important chemical management tool” and one that the council has long supported.

“We will review the new [OSHA] standard carefully to see if it incorporates our recommendations to improve coordination with other agencies, establishes reasonable effective dates and provides an opportunity for US stakeholders to offer input,” he said.

But even prior to that review, Walls said the new OSHA standard would “help industry improve the communication of important safety information, minimise transaction costs and create efficiencies in labelling chemicals domestically and abroad”.

The revised OSHA standards will affect the content of chemical safety data sheets that are posted in workplaces and on chemicals containers to alert workers to a given substance’s risks.

The OSHA changes also will affect product labelling, nationwide training of employees in handling chemicals, and familiarisation courses for management.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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