Changes to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard

As of December 1, 2013 all employees across all industries must be trained in the changes to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.  These changes are not set to take place until 2015, however, some Chemical Manufacturer’s will be proactive rather than reactive and will start implementing the changes in 2014. Therefore, employees will need to know how to read the new Hazard Communication labels and Safety Data Sheets. 


What is Hazard Communication?

The purpose of the Hazard Communication Standard is to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are evaluated, and that information concerning their hazard is transmitted to employers and employees.

Your "Right to know," in the context of United States workplace and community environmental law is the legal principle that the individual has the right to know the chemicals to which they may be exposed in their daily living. It is embodied in federal law in the United States as well as in local laws in several states. "Right to Know" laws take two forms: Community Right to Know and Workplace Right to Know.


Current vs. New Labels

The current label system is the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) is a numerical hazard rating that incorporates the use of labels with color-coded bars as well as training materials. It was developed by the American Coatings Association as a compliance aid for the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.

0 = Neutral  1= Irritation  2 = Minor Injury  3 = Major Injury  4 = Life-Threatening


The New Label system which will be in full effect starting December 1, 2015 is called the Globally Harmonized System or GHS. The GHS label elements include the following:

1.     The Product Identifier

2.     The Signal Word

a.    Warning (harmful)

b.    Danger (fatal)

3.     Hazard Statement

4.     The Appropriate Pictogram


a.    There are 9 Ddifferent Pictograms in 3 Categories

b.    Physical Hazards

i.     Exploding Bomb = Explosives

ii.    Flame = Flammables

iii.   Flame Over Circle = Oxidizers

iv.   Gas Cylinder = Gas Under Pressure

v.    Corrosion = Corrosive to Metals

c.     Health Hazards

i.    Health Hazard = Carcinogen

ii.   Skull and Crossbones = Aacute Toxicity (fatal)

iii.  Exclamation Point = Acute Toxicity (harmful)

iv.  Corrosion = Skin Corrosion/Burns

d.    Environmental Hazards

i.    Environment = Aquatic Toxicity

5.     Precautionary Statement

6.     Supplier Information and Supplemental Information


Safety Data Sheets

(Click Here for a PDF of OSHA’s Quick Card – Safety Data Sheets)

Material Safety Data Sheets will change to Safety Data Sheets effective June 1, 2015.  The SDS’s will contain the following information in a standardized format.  All chemical manufacturers will be responsible for producing Safety Data Sheets in this new format.

  1.   Manufacturer Identification
  2.   Hazard Identification
  3.   Composition/Ingredients
  4.   First Aid Measures
  5.   Fire-Fighting Measures
  6.   Accidental Release
  7.   Handling and Storage
  8.   Exposure Controls
  9.   Physical and Chemical Properties
  10.   Stability and Reactivity
  11.   Toxicological information
  12.   Ecological information
  13.   Disposal considerations
  14.   Transport information
  15.   Regulatory information
  16.   Other information

It is important for all employers to start talking about the impending changes to the Hazard Communication System, it will take some practice for us all to get used to reading the new labels.

Below are links to more information from OSHA on the new Hazard Communication Standard: 


OSHA 30-Hour Classes