The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) will advance safety and health protection for workers by providing a global standard for chemical classification. In addition to increasing safety precautions for hazardous materials workers, the new Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) also provides easier access to information on the safety data sheets, cost savings due to productivity improvements and fewer safety data sheet and label updates, and more straightforward hazard communication training. 

How Do These Changes Affect Your Organization? 

The last time OSHA made major revision to its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) was in 1994 (Haz Com 1994). With the GHS adoption (Haz Com 2012), the basic framework of the HCS will remain the same but the way hazardous materials are evaluated, communicated, described, and labeled will now change. The significant modifications include: the hazardous material classification system, with segments for physical, health, and environmental hazards; the use of uniform descriptions of dangers and safety measures; the use of pictograms for the hazard symbols; and a consistent Safety Data Sheet (SDS) (previously known as Material Safety Data Sheet [MSDS]) content and format. The old HCS allowed chemical producers and distributors to communicate hazard information on labels and MSDSs in a format of their choosing. The modified standard requires synchronization with the standards of other organizations throughout the world. Corresponding changes to Department of Transportation (DOT) package labeling are also coming. 

What Do You Need To Do and When? 

Employers are required to have workers trained to facilitate recognition and understanding of the new label elements and SDS format by December 1, 2013. By June 1, 2015, SDSs should be sent and received by manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers (except for distributors, who may ship hazardous materials labeled under the old system until December 1, 2015). Employers are required to update workplace labeling and hazard communication programs by June 1, 2016. During the transition period (from 2013 to 2016), companies are allowed to comply with Haz Com 1994 or Haz Com 2012 or both. 

How Can St.Germain Assist with Assessments and Training? 

Deadlines will surely come up quickly, so make sure you are prepared. St.Germain can help with transitioning into the new GHS by carefully evaluating for potential costs and implementation considerations, creating a transition plan and timeline, as well as providing necessary training. If you would like to discuss the impact the new GHS will have on your organization or would like to schedule combination HCS and GHS training, contact Mike Rioux, CHMM at or 591 7000, ext. 13.