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ASSE Suggests the Earlier the Better for Companies to Get Started with GHS Compliance

Posted in , on Tue, Mar 27, 2012

DES PLAINES, IL (March 21st, 2012) Prior to Tuesday’s announcement of the
revised Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) Hazard Communication
Standard (HCS) the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has been preparing
safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals for major compliance
changes that are required by the United Nations’ (UN) Globally Harmonized
System (GHS), by suggesting steps that can be taken to make the difficult and
lengthy task more manageable.

GHS, a consistent way to globally communicate
chemical hazard information, was adopted by the U.N. in 1992 and by OSHA on
March 20th, 2012. The Federal Register will publish the final rule
on March 26th, with the effective date coming 60 days after the date
of publication. Companies that work with chemicals are expected to have trained
their employees on how to read the new material safety data sheets (MSDS) and labels
by June 1st 2013, and to have all employee training completed by
June 1st, 2016.

In a recent ASSE webinar titled ‘GHS and HCS
Crash Course in Compliance’ it was noted for SH&E professionals this means
that they are about to get inundated with changes to current MSDS and labels that
must be revised, rewritten and republished to comply with new GHS regulations
and HCS.

ASSE members recommend that companies and
their employees become familiar with the new globalized product/chemical hazard
identifier symbols, which have been redesigned to include a red border. A new
symbol has also been added to the group under the jurisdiction of GHS, which
indicates that a chemical is an environmental hazard.

Risks associated with exposure to chemicals are
broad and can range from burning of the skin or eyes, damage to the body’s
respiratory or neurological system, birth defects or deadly diseases including
cancer.

In today’s world of global trade, it has
become necessary to have a harmonized system for the classification and
labeling of chemicals that will make it easier for employees around the world
to understand the hazards of certain substances they come into contact with and
to take the necessary precautions to stay safe on the job.

According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda
Solis, it will also reduce confusion in the U.S. workplace, especially for low
wage and low literacy workers.

The revised GHS HCS standard now focuses on
an employee’s right to understand the hazards of materials they come into contact
with while on the job.

“OSHA’s 1983 Hazard Communication Standard
gave workers the right to know,” explained Assistant Secretary of Labor for
OSHA, Dr. David Michaels. “This update will give them the right to understand,
as well.”

Differences in chemical regulations,
classifications and labeling of chemicals in various countries have led to
problems in communicating the dangers of hazardous materials. In addition,
compliance with multiple regulations can be costly and time consuming for
corporations and the burdens currently can make it difficult for them to
compete internationally.

“The GHS requires consistent communication in
labeling,” explained ASSE member Glen Trout, President and CEO of Chicago-based
MSDSonline.

Experts strongly urge those affected by GHS,
to begin implementation and employee training as soon as possible to ensure
that they are not mired with compliance requirements at the last minute.

Companies are encouraged to begin a dialogue
with their employees to ensure that they understand the changes. They should
also talk to their chemical suppliers to find out their plans to transition to
GHS.

During ASSE’s webinar, it was noted that software
is also available to help manage the multitude of changes to MSDS and labels
that SH&E professionals will be tasked with.

OSHA estimates that once GHS is fully
implemented, employers will save approximately $32.2 million, as a result of
higher efficiency in transporting products around the globe, as well as a
decrease in workers compensation and loss work time due to chemical exposure.

Trout suggested that the earlier a company
begins educating themselves and their employees about GHS and its
implementation, the easier this major transition will be.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest
professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people,
property and the environment. Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health
and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and
consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all
industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information
please go to www.asse.org and for a free podcast of the webinar go to http://assevirtualclassroom.org/resources/?p=86 and go to www.osha.gov.
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