OSHA Proposes Changes to the Hazard Communication Standard

On February 5, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed rulemaking to update the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).  The HCS regulates the labelling and storage requirements for hazardous chemicals, as well as the manner in which employers must inform employees about hazardous chemicals, including the use and style of Safety Data Sheets.

While the current HCS has not been updated since 2012, the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals has been updated twice.  Under the proposed rule, the US standard would correspond more closely with the standards used internationally.  The international standard includes more easily understandable pictograms that may more effectively communicate the hazards associated with a substance regardless of the user’s language abilities.

By adopting an updated HCS, OSHA hopes to increase safety standards across industries.  According to the agency, “Consistent labeling requirements have also enabled employers to identify the most hazardous materials in the workplace, understand more about the health effects of these chemicals, and address which hazardous chemicals they may want to replace with safer alternatives.”

The proposed rule would also provide increased flexibility for labeling hazardous chemicals by incorporating the use of technological and electronic means.  Proposed changes would also allow for labels to contain additional information about hazards presented and may allow users to obtain information about potential hazards before the chemicals themselves are delivered.

OSHA is accepting comments on the proposed rule until April 19, 2021.  Comments may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, by referencing Docket No. OSHA-2019-0001.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

Learn more aboutTimothy Bubenik
Tim represents management in all areas of labor and employment law.