Posted on October 8th, 2013 by Dakota Software Staff
As the Dec. 1 training deadline approaches for the new United Nations' Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) standards, many companies are struggling to understand how to fully comply with the guidelines.
In March 2012, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated its hazard communication standards to bring them more in line with the GHS regulations. As part of the switch to GHS standards, companies will now be required to adjust current practices to abide by new rules for chemical labels and safety data sheets (SDS).
What is the GHS?
Employee health and safety is paramount, but many organizations find themselves struggling to remain compliant and observant when chemicals and materials adhere to a number of different regulatory codes. GHS guidelines are part of a standardized international system set up to label and classify chemical hazards. This information is to be shared on labels and on standardized safety data sheets. The GHS standards were developed by international hazard communication professionals and were designed to streamline communications across countries and governments.
The GHS guidelines will create a consistent program for workers who deal with hazardous chemicals, foster stronger chemical communication, protect workers, facilitate international trade and reduce costs to governments and companies by centralizing compliance standards.
GHS compliance by the numbers
The implementation of the GHS standards is a major undertaking for the global community, focused on reducing health and safety hazards and improving safety and regulatory compliance. Many U.S. companies have already begun the transition, which will affect approximately 1 million safety data sheets for around 1 million chemicals that will need to be relabeled. More than 5 million companies and 40 million workers will be affected by the changes. The transition won't be cheap, either - U.S. stakeholders are expected to spend around $97 million per year on GHS implementation, including $42 million on training.
While the initial costs may be tough for some companies to handle, the potential wellness and financial outcomes are expected to impress. According to OSHA, GHS compliance has the potential to prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries and illnesses each year. Organizations are also expected to reduce costs and improve productivity, resulting in savings of $754 million per year due to the transition.
One of the main ways in which the GHS standards will help companies save money is through reduced injury and fatality rates. By following the standards, companies will not only save costs on worker injuries and resulting legal issues, but will also save money by becoming more efficient. The standards are designed to streamline hazard communications, increasing efficiency and saving companies money along the way.
Adjusting to major changes proposed by the GHS
The GHS regulations are set to affect the way many companies do business. Each GHS-approved SDS contains 16 sections including hazard identification, first-aid measures, transport information and handling and storage information.
One major change organizations will have to get used to is an inversion of the current chemical rating system. In the current label rating system in the U.S., a rating of 1 is best, while a rating of 4 denotes the worst hazardous chemicals. Under the new GHS guidelines, these are inverted - category 1 is the worst, while category 4 is the best.
Companies will also have to adjust to new nomenclature that identifies hazards. Under the new system, there are four tiers for denoting toxicity levels. The standards also differentiate between hazards, precautionary statements, dangers and warnings on labels. This has caused an understandable amount of confusion for many organizations.
AIHA SDS and Label Authoring Registry Program offers credentials to experts
One of the best ways to stay compliant with GHS standards while maintaining expertise in the hazard communication industry is to work with the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) SDS and Label Authoring Registry Program. This in-depth program provides professionals with a route toward becoming credentialed, knowledgeable and capable in understanding the GHS standards as they pertain to SDS. To be credentialed by AIHA Registry Programs, individuals must pass an exam to prove their competence. These professionals can then properly train staff to show them how to correctly label hazardous chemicals and complete safety data sheets.
"With the revision of the OSHA HazCom standard to align with the GHS, safety data sheets, as of June 1, 2015, will undergo a change in format and content," said Mary Ann Latko, managing director of AIHA Registry Programs. "Persons who author or review SDS and labels are integral to making workplaces safer for employees by improving the quality and consistency of SDS and labels. Registered specialists in SDS and Label Authoring have demonstrated that they understand the new requirements and can apply them effectively. This is the only credential in the marketplace that specifically addresses this new skill and area of knowledge."
Those credentialed by AIHA Registry Programs will be listed on a public registry, making their level of expertise known to potential employers and serving as a multinational endorsement of an individual's knowledge in the field.
The SDS and Label Authoring Registry, co-developed by the AIHA Registry Programs, LLC®, the American Industrial Hygiene Association® (AIHA) and the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC), recognizes chemical hazard communication and environmental health professionals who specialize in writing SDS and labels.