The Countdown is On for Compliance with the New OSHA GHS Standard

Regulations go into effect Dec. 1, 2013 requiring many businesses to comply with new chemical safety training rules.  Even businesses using seemingly benign chemicals such as consumer grade adhesives, paints and cleaning supplies must provide workers with OSHA compliant HazCom GHS training before the Dec. 1, 2013 deadline. Training teaches new labeling elements and a new SDS format. SDS is similar to what is currently known as MSDS. Convenient and inexpensive training options are available through LBA University™ and others that provide businesses with the assurance that they are OSHA compliant and their employees are trained properly.  


GHS - The Globally Harmonized System of Classification & Labeling of Chemicals Online TrainingThe first phase of the Revised Hazard Communications Standard Safety Data Sheets Globally Harmonized System (OSHA HazCom GHS) goes into effect on Dec. 1, 2013. The new HazCom GHS standard is part of sweeping new regulations being rolled out in phases by OSHA.  The first phase of the new guidelines require businesses, where hazardous chemical compounds are present, to train their employees on changes the Globally Harmonized System introduces.

The new rules move the current labeling and well-known Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to a global standard.  The original standard is performance-oriented, allowing chemical manufacturers and importers to convey information on labels and MSDSs in whatever format they choose. The GHS utilizes a more standardized approach to classifying the chemical hazards and conveying the information. Once workers are trained on the new guidelines, many experts believe that understanding labels and warnings will be much easier.

“Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious dangers facing American workers today,” says Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in an OSHA press release. “Revising OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will improve the quality, consistency and clarity of hazard information that workers receive, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive in the global marketplace.”

There has been a slow reaction from companies to seek training for their employees in preparation for the implementation of the first phase of the new regulations. Some businesses may not realize that they must comply with the new HazCom GHS. Chemicals a business may house do not have to be a specific grade such as commercial or industrial. Consumer grade chemicals used in a business or commercial setting will fall under the new HazCom GHS. Many safety professionals expect that OSHA will aggressively enforce the new GHS HAZCOM rules, with hefty non-compliance fines – per employee!

“The new HazCom GHS standard requires businesses, where hazardous chemical compounds are present to train their employees on changes the Globally Harmonized System introduced and it must be completed by Dec. 1, 2013,” said LBA University™ course director Bryan Dixon.

Dixon has spent years managing safety issues for companies. He is an OSHA-authorized safety instructor with two decades of industrial, construction and fire safety training experience.  He has voiced concern that businesses are not reacting with the urgency they should be when it comes to getting their employees trained on the new label format, symbols and other aspects related to the rules.

“Numerous businesses don’t realize they fall under the requirements of the new OSHA standards,” said Dixon.

Nail cosmetologists need GHS Training
Even nail salons and cosmetologists must be trained in the new GHS!

Why professional training is critical

While there are free training materials available through various sources, such materials do not offer the documentation that may be necessary during a facility inspection by OSHA. There are convenient and inexpensive training options available from LBA University and others that provide businesses with the assurance that their employees are trained properly.  These training options offer the proper comprehension verification through testing and a certificate for every student who successfully completes the course.  There is also a designated company facilitator who can access, track and review all of the course records for each of their employees who have completed the course.

Having access to this official documentation and a certificate of completions for each employee insures compliance with the OSHA HazCom GHS standard.  Companies should look for the best training option for their needs whether it is on-site or online training for OSHA compliance with HazCom GHS.

Training requirements

Even businesses using seemingly benign chemicals such as consumer grade adhesives, paints and cleaning supplies must provide workers with OSHA compliant HazCom GHS training before Dec. 1, 2013. OSHA has mandated that all affected workers must be trained to read and understand the new safety data sheets and chemical labeling criteria.

New label format as outlined by OSHA


Understanding new SDS labels is an important part of GHS training
Understanding new SDS labels is an important part of GHS training
  • Product identifier: This can include information such as the name of the chemical and/or a code or batch number. This identifier must be identical to Section 1 of the SDS.
  • Signal word: This indicates the severity of the hazards, using the words “Danger” or “Warning.” “Danger” is for severe hazards, while “Warning” is for less severe hazards. Only one of these signal words will appear on the label, regardless of the number of hazards a chemical may pose.
  • Pictograms: Perhaps the most visible change to the labels is that every chemical is required to have a diamond shape with a symbol inside that represents a specific hazard category. Eight mandatory pictograms cover everything from health hazards and flammability to corrosions and explosions.
  • A ninth pictogram, dealing with environment, is not mandated by OSHA, but Levine recommended employees be trained because they should know what it means in case they come across it.
  • Hazard statement: This describes the nature of the hazards. All hazard statements of a chemical must be listed on the label, including a description of what adverse health effects the chemical can cause.
  • Precautionary statement: This is a phrase describing recommended measures to either minimize or prevent the adverse effects from the chemical due to exposure or improper storage.
  • Supplier information: The name, address and phone number of the chemical’s manufacturer, distributor or importer is included on the label.

New Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

The new rules shorten the MSDA to SDS, which is in line with phrasing used around the world. The SDS requirements establish an order of information that is standardized. Adoption of the GHS in the U.S. and around the world aims to improve the understanding of chemical information received from other countries. The goal is to elevate the effective and efficient access to information by all those exposed to chemicals, including emergency responders.

OSHA requires training to address the standardized 16-section format of the SDS:

  • Section 1: Identification, which includes elements found on the label such as product identifier and contact information.
  • Section 2: Hazard identification of the label elements, including the signal word, hazard and precautionary statements, and pictogram.
  • Section 3: Ingredient composition and information, which for substances includes the chemical name and its synonyms; for mixtures, the same details as required for substances, but also must specify the concentration of each ingredient.
  • Section 4: First aid measures.
  • Section 5: Firefighting measures.
  • Section 6: Accidental release measures, including instructions for evacuations, containment methods and cleanup procedures.
  • Section 7: Handling and storage guidance.
  • Section 8: Exposure controls and personal protection, including permissible exposure limits, engineering controls and recommended personal protective equipment.
  • Section 9: Physical and chemical properties, including its appearance, odor, flammability or explosive limits, and melting or freezing points.
  • Section 10: Stability and reactivity of the chemical.
  • Section 11: Toxicological information, which addresses the likely routes of exposure and a description of exposure effects.
  • Sections 12-15 Non-mandatory sections that might include ecological information, disposal considerations, transportation information and regulatory information.
  • Section 16: Other information, such as when the SDS was prepared or when a revision was  made.

It should be noted that OSHA understands that there will be a period of time where labels and SDSs under both the current standards and the new standards will be present in the workplace. This will be considered acceptable. Employers are not required to maintain two sets of labels and SDSs for compliance purposes.

The new GHS rules are at the door – be legal, be safe!
The new GHS rules are at the door – be legal, be safe!

Key questions

When could new labels and SDSs begin appearing?

Changes to the labels and SDSs already may be seen, as manufacturers and distributors have been allowed to use them. However, the date for full compliance, when employees should see the new labels on everything, is June 1, 2015. Distributors are not allowed to ship containers with non-GHS-compliant labels beginning Dec. 1, 2014.

Why the changes?

The intent is to standardize information related to the safe handling of chemicals worldwide. As a result of this, OSHA has projected several benefits from the revised HCS.  The agency said that on an annual basis it will result in the prevention of 43 fatalities and 585 injuries and illnesses, 203 lost-workday injuries and illnesses, and 64 chronic illnesses. This translates into preventing 318 lost-workday injuries and illnesses. OSHA estimates that the monetized value of this reduction in occupational risks is an estimated $250 million a year.

OSHA estimates substantial residual financial benefits as well.  They believe that productivity improvements for health and safety managers and logistics personnel will result in savings of $475.2 million. The total cost for implementing and maintaining HazCom GHS is estimated at $201 million a year on an annualized basis for the entire U.S.

The bottom line

Companies storing, using or handling chemicals must provide workers with OSHA compliant HazCom GHS training before Dec. 1, 2013. These chemicals can include consumer grade adhesives, paints and cleaning supplies, just to name a few. Employers must train employees on the new label elements, which include pictograms, hazard statements, precautionary statements, signal words and the new SDS format.

For more information on the OSHA HazCom GHS requirements and the Dec. 1, 2013 deadline, or other safety training opportunities offered by LBA University, call or email Bryan Dixon at: 252-757-0279,

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About The Author

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David Horn is an award-winning business and marketing development specialist with LBA Group, Inc. He helps some of the largest companies in the country implement regulatory compliance programs. LBA also utilizes his decades of experience in communications and new media to supplement the global marketing initiatives of the company. He specializes in turning complex topics into informative and entertaining stories.

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