Issue Date: October 5, 2009
Chemical Labeling System Proposed
OSHA proposed last week to align the U.S. chemical labeling, classification, and hazard communication system with an international system. Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor, explained that aligning the U.S. chemical hazard communication system with the UN’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS) would improve communications when chemicals move between countries. It would also present an opportunity to improve the U.S. system, he said, by making labels or pictograms and chemical safety data information clearer, more consistent, and of higher quality, thereby aiding workers, companies, and emergency responders. The proposal was published Sept. 30, kicking off a 90-day comment period with public hearings to be held next year. Once finalized, OSHA plans a three-year phase-in of the new system, Barab said, adding that GHS is in place in the European Union and being developed in Japan, China, Canada, and other countries. Merging the U.S. and global system may present challenges due to differences in how the standards were developed, as well as differences in testing apparatus and procedures used to gauge a chemical’s physical characteristics.
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