From Hazcom to GHS

5 Reasons Not to Panic About GHS

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: November 25th, 2013
Topics: GHS Transition | HazCom |

No problems with GHS

GHS is the most dramatic thing to happen to Hazcom since the OSHA Hazard Communication standard was first published back in 1983. But while change is rarely easy, for most of you at least, i.e., the employers that get their hazardous chemicals from manufacturers or importers rather than manufacturing or importing them yourself, the transition to GHS shouldn’t be that dramatic. Here are 4 reasons why.

Reason 1: The Old Right-to-Know System Isn’t Changing

The fundamental principle of Hazcom is the employee’s right to know about the hazardous substances they’re exposed to, why those substances are hazardous and how to protect against those hazards. GHS is built on the same principle. More importantly, under GHS, you’ll be using the same methods you use today to communicate that information to employees:

  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS);
  • Labels; and
  • Information and training.

Reason 2: You Don’t Have to Create the New SDSs & Labels

Of course, even though GHS retains the MSDS and label, it also gives them a facelift. Under GHS:

  • MSDSs will be called “Safety Data Sheets”; and
  • Both labels and SDSs must display different kinds of information.

But if you get your hazardous chemicals from an outside supplier, you won’t bear the burden of creating the SDS and label. As under current rules, chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors are responsible for label and SDS creation under GHS. Your responsibility, as an employer, is to make sure you get a proper version of these newfangled labels and SDSs for each hazardous substance at your workplace.

Reason 3: You Can Keep Using Your Old MSDS Binders/Access System

As before, employers will have to keep copies of the MSDS/SDS at the workplace and make them accessible to employees at all times. Of course, MSDSs will have to be replaced with SDSs. But while the contents of your current binders or access systems will change, the fundamental system doesn’t have to. If it provided sufficient access to employees (including contractor employees) while populated with MSDSs, it should keep doing so once it contains SDSs.

Reason 4: You Have Lots of Time

The deadline to replace MSDSs and current Hazcom labels with SDSs and GHS labels is June 1, 2016. In fact, manufacturers, importers aren’t even required to create the new SDSs until June 1, 2015 and the new labels until Dec. 1, 2015.

However, there is one early deadline you must meet: All employees must be trained how to use the new SDSs and GHS labels by Dec. 1, 2013. In other words, the deadline for training is actually 30 months before the deadline for actual use.

You’ll also have to make adjustments to your current Hazard Communication Program and other written OSHA programs indirectly affected by GHS, e.g., exposure control plans under Bloodborne Pathogens and chemical safety provisions of confined space entry programs. These latter “ripple effect” changes could pose the greatest challenge in GHS transition. The good news, though, is that the deadline for these changes is June 1, 2016. That’s more than 4 years away.

Reason 5: SafetySmart Compliance Has You Covered.

We have step-by-step instructions that will help you understand and comply with every requirement of The Globally Harmonized System. This GHS Requirements breakdown will help you understand the regulations, use this piece to cover the 10 Most Important Details in Your GHS Training.

For a full overview of GHS, click here.

SafetySmart also offers training materials, including elearning, video and instructor led-training. To learn more, contact your account representative at 1-800-667-9300.