Saturday, June 1, 2013

GHS Label Signal Words: The Distinction between DANGER and WARNING


June 1, 2013 -  No need to panic, at least not yet. But let me remind you that the deadline for training all employees on the changes brought about by OSHA’s adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) into the Hazard Communication standard is getting closer by the day. And while the December 1, 2013 deadline for getting all mandatory employee training completed may seem a long way off, just remember that it was more than fourteen (14) months ago that the revised OSHA Haz-Com standard was published and the deadline was first announced!
One of the best ways to understand a new (or revised) OSHA standard, I believe, is to prepare to teach a class about the topic. I am already covering this topic when conducting OSHA 10 and 30 hour Outreach training classes. And I just produced and posted on our website a free online GHS training tutorial titled “Understanding the GHS Labeling System” for employers to use for employee training purposes, and am currently working on the companion course on understanding safety data sheets (will be ready soon). And many of you already know that I create and post one free toolbox talk each month on our website related to the GHS training requirements; my goal is to have twelve (12) free GHS-related toolbox talks posted by December 1, 2013 that employers can utilize for employee training. As a result of these efforts, I have come to have a much better understanding of the revised OSHA Haz-Com standard.
When researching the labeling requirements of the GHS system, you will note the requirement that one of two “Signal Words” must appear on all container labels and safety data sheets (SDS’s) for harmful chemicals and products; either “DANGER” or “WARNING”. For many employees (and employers), these two terms may seem to be interchangeable, but once you dig into the standard and its appendices, you can see there is a distinct difference between their use and intent. In a nutshell, the signal .  .  .
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