Companies that make, stock or sell chemicals must brace for new rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but questions remain on what those new rules mean for distributors.
This much is known: Manufacturers must have new labeling and safety data sheets (SDS) for all of their chemicals by June 1, 2015, while distributors must sell chemicals with the old labels and SDS by December. The reason for the change is simple, says Senthil Pichandi, director of product safety and regulatory affairs at Henkel, in Deadline for Chemical Label Changes Looms.
“The world is shrinking," Pichandi says. "Products are being sold in many regions, raw materials are coming from all over the world, and every region and country has its own way of structuring safety data sheets and labels."
The new hazard communication standards (HCS) – or, rather, the changes to existing rules – were established in 2012 to comply with United Nations rules created in 2005. The goal of the rules is to make safety information more consistent and understandable for users, regardless of country of origin.
While the new rules may help to overcome some of this issue, “the globally harmonized system is anything but harmonized,” says Roger Lee, vice president and general manager, North America, for specialty chemicals distribution at Ellsworth Adhesives.
Each country participating in the program still has to pass its own set of rules to achieve compliance with the U.N. system. And not every country that has agreed to the system has implemented its country-specific rules. Canada, for example, expects to issue an update that will realign its workplace hazardous materials information system to make it compliant with GHS, but no date has been set.
Read more about the new regulations and tips on compliance in Deadline for Chemical Label Changes Looms.