The United Nations signed on to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) back in 2003. The primary changes were to standardize labeling of chemicals and replace the old Material Safety Data Sheets with Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The United States set out a timeline for the rules to be implemented. Here was the plan:
By December, 2013 – Employers needed to train their workers on the changes.
By June, 2015 – Chemical manufacturers and a lot of distributors and importers were supposed to reclassify hazardous chemicals under the new rules and update their SDS and labels.
By December, 2015 – Distributors will no longer be allowed to ship chemicals that don’t meet the new labeling and SDS rules.
By June, 2016 – Employers must be in full compliance.
Just one problem- According to Occupational Safety and Health Magazine, for a variety of reasons, a lot of manufacturers missed the June 15th deadline. The OHS article says this could create a ripple effect where it will be harder to meet the future deadlines. OSHA apparently has made some effort to be reasonably flexible about the deadline, but has said it will start cracking down on manufacturers and distributors that don’t appear to have been trying to meet the deadline.
How could this impact you as an employer? The worst case is that, if suppliers miss their deadlines, it could make it tough for employers to meet the deadline next year. What should you do? OHS has some tips to make sure that you hold up your end even if the manufacturers and distributors run into problems:
- Perform a chemical inventory to make sure you have the most up to date SDS
- Train employees on GHS if you have not done so already and make sure that they are trained on any new changes to safety data sheets as they are sent
- Have a system to track incoming Safety Data Sheets
- Talk to suppliers about GHS to find out their timelines (and document that you had the conversation, I would think).