Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Prediction for the Most Cited OSHA Standard . . . in 2014?

Happy 2013!  With the beginning of every New Year comes predictions for the future, and the vast majority of them turn out to be false. However, I have one sure-fire, slam-dunk prediction for the year after next that will no doubt come true. In fact, you can bet the house on it!  Here it is:
“In 2014, OSHA will issue more citations for violations of 1910.1200(h)(3)(iv) during the year than for any other standard in the book.”
Now most people who make predictions do so for the coming year. So why am I making a prediction for 2014, which is two years in advance? Because OSHA just revised their Hazard Communication standard to align with the United Nation’s “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals”, commonly referred to as “GHS”. And buried in that revised standard is a significant change to the employee training requirements that every covered employer in the country will have to have in place by December 1, 2013. And I’m betting that many employers will be caught flat-footed when 2014 rolls around, either having not conducted the additional required training at all, or not covering the required topics adequately. And that is when OSHA will start handing out the citations!
In the revised Haz-Com standard, manufacturers and distributors of hazardous chemicals and products actually have until December 1, 2015 to standardize how they categorize the hazards of their products, as well as the information and format of their container labels and Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as MSDS’s). And employers will have until that date to get these new items in place at their facilities. However, OSHA added some significant new requirements for employers to train their workers about these pending changes, and they are only giving you until December 1, 2013 to complete all of this additional training.
So what must you get started covering right now to make certain you get all the required training completed by December 1st of this year and avoid the possibility of citations. If you look closely at the specific standard I mentioned above [1910.1200(h)(3)(iv)], you will see that OSHA now requires workers to be provided with training so they understand: 1) the labels on shipped containers and the workplace labeling system used by their employer; and, 2) new Safety Data Sheets (aka SDS’s), including the order of information on those sheets and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information to protect themselves.

While that standard looks very similar to the old Haz-Com training requirements, the actual elements of the labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s) have significantly changed and will require extensive training for workers. Here is an overview of the major differences that will have to be covered in the training this year:
Training on Container Labels & In-house Labeling Systems:  All containers of hazardous chemicals will now have to be labeled with the following information:
·         Product identifier;
·         Signal word*;
·         Hazard statement(s)*;
·         Pictogram(s)*;
·         Precautionary statement(s)*; and,
·         Name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party
The four bullet points above that are marked with a red asterisk (*) are new to the OSHA Haz-Com standard. Be aware that OSHA has very specific requirements for how that information is to be formatted on labels [see 1910.1200(f)(1) and (2)], and this must be specifically addressed with your employees during training.
Training on Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as material safety data sheets): Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s) for all hazardous chemicals in the workplace will have to be formatted to include specific section numbers and headings, and contain all associated information under each heading, in the specific order listed below:
·         Section 1 - Identification;
·         Section 2 - Hazard(s) identification;
·         Section 3 - Composition/information on ingredients;
·         Section 4 - First-aid measures;
·         Section 5 - Fire-fighting measures;
·         Section 6 - Accidental release measures;
·         Section 7 - Handling and storage;
·         Section 8 - Exposure controls/personal protection;
·         Section 9 - Physical and chemical properties;
·         Section 10 - Stability and reactivity;
·         Section 11 - Toxicological information;
·         Section 12 - Ecological information;
·         Section 13 - Disposal considerations;
·         Section 14 - Transport information;
·         Section 15 - Regulatory information; and,
·         Section 16 - Other information, including date of preparation or last revision
So while the old OSHA Haz-Com standard required training on MSDS’s in general, the revised standard is very specific about the training workers will need; For example, they must now understand the specific order of the information appearing on the SDS’s, and in which sections they can obtain the appropriate hazard information they seek.
In addition to making sure all affected workers receive training on the new labeling and Safety Data Sheet requirements, there is actually one more part of the standard that will also have to be specifically covered during employee training sessions. According to 1910.1200(h)(3)(ii) (which I also predict will be cited by OSHA quite a bit in 2014), employees have to be trained not only to understand the general physical and health hazards of the hazardous products in the workplace, as was the case with the old standard, but also specifics about the simple asphyxiation, combustible dust, and pyrophoric gas hazards, as well as hazards not otherwise classified, of the chemicals in the work area. These hazard categories were not specifically spelled out in the old standard, so no doubt OSHA will be looking for clear evidence that these topics were also covered, where applicable, in your upcoming training sessions.
I found it interesting that OSHA requires employers to provide the training by December 1, 2013, yet the actual labeling and SDS requirements don’t have to be implemented until a couple of years later. OSHA did this because they believe that American workplaces will soon begin to receive labels and SDSs that are consistent with the revised Haz-Com standard, since many domestic and foreign chemical manufacturers already produce GHS-compliant labels and SDSs. And the agency feel it is important to ensure that when workers begin to see the new types of labels and SDSs at work, they will be familiar with them, understand how to use them, and be able to access the information effectively. So for a while at least, employees will need to understand both the old and the new Haz-Com labeling systems and safety data sheets until everything gets transitioned to the new systems.
While it may appear to be a daunting task to accomplish all of this training in just a few short months, there are many resources to assist employers in meeting the deadline. Our company is offering free monthly OSHA Toolbox talks on our sister website (click here to see the list) that you can download to assist with your in-house training efforts. Each month, the toolbox talk will address one aspect of the revised Haz-Com training requirements, with the goal of covering them all by December 1, 2013. We also offer training DVDs to help you meet the mandatory training requirements (click here). And last but not least, there are many OSHA Trainers standing by who can conduct the training for you if needed (click here to find one). Whatever approach you take, I’d urge you to get started right away if you have not already. And by getting started now rather than later, you can avoid being one of the many employers who I predicted will get dinged by OSHA in 2014.
Have you already taken any steps to train your workers on the new employee training elements contained in the revised OSHA Hazard Communication Standard? If so, please share with our readers how you are going about this in the “comments” section below. And last but not least, please pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information.