The latest development in the U.S. transition to the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of hazard communication is offering chemical blend manufacturers some flexibility in meeting the June 1, 2015 deadline for having all their data sheets authored as GHS-style SDSs.
Following a decision at an October 31, 2014 meting, in a letter to the American Coating Association, OSHA has communicated that it will use its enforcement discretion in the case of blend manufacturers who are able to demonstrate they've taken every reasonable action to try and met the June 1, 2015 deadline for SDS authoring.
To quote the letter, "OSHA is able to use its enforcement discretion when compliance staff consider whether formulators and manufacturers have performed their due diligence and made good faith efforts... our policy allows us to consider barriers to the downstream flow of information that are beyond their control."
This decision comes from the difficulty that upstream blenders will have authoring SDSs by the deadline if their own suppliers have not yet switched to SDS authoring - the entire supply chain will not be able to transition to GHS simultaneously on the deadline, creating an SDS bottleneck that will adversely affect the upstream manufacturers.
What this means for chemical blend manufacturers is that they must still attempt to meet the June 1, 2015 deadline by completing as much of the work as possible, including (to quote the letter from OSHA): "attempts to contact their supplier to obtain the proper information; reasonable efforts to find alternate suppliers who could provide timely and accurate classifications; and reasonable efforts to find relevant data themselves."
Furthermore, manufacturers and blenders must thoroughly document all efforts to alternately obtain information in order to be given this reprieve and provide a written plan for how they will meet the GHS requirements for SDS authoring within a reasonable period after the deadline has passed. Finally, their entire MSDS/SDS inventory must at least be 100% compliant with current HazCom standards.
Now the American Coating Association is working on its recommendations for what should constitute due diligence for blend manufacturers, as well as helping to determine what is a reasonable deadline for compliance after the first June 1, 2015 deadline.
For now, it appears that blend manufacturers will have flexibility when it comes to the June 1 deadline, provided they have taken every reasonable action to comply, have documented those actions, can prove that circumstances beyond their control have caused the delay, they are currently in compliance with HazCom standards, and have a written plan for complying as soon as possible.
Impact on Your Business
If you're in the business of formulating chemical blends, it's important to keep in mind that the June 1, 2015 deadline has not been officially delayed, nor is OSHA going to reopen the ruling to change the deadline. This deadline leniency simply gives a little extra time to comply where circumstances require it. If possible, you must still meet th June 1 deadline. That's why it is still important to begin the work of transitioning your hazard communication to the GHS as soon as possible, including contacting your vendors to ensure they are doing the same. Remember to document all of these actions as a safeguard against noncompliance.
If you're a vendor to a chemical manufacturer, take note: blenders are expected to switch to suppliers that have GHS classifications complete if they are able to do so, which means suppliers that fall behind in SDS Authoring will see a dramatic decline in business and profits.
Vital Next Steps
ERA Environmental Management Solutions recommends that all businesses continue with their efforts to comply with SDS authoring requirements, or start those efforts today if you have not done so. Although there is much worry in the industry that meeting the June 1 deadline is too difficult, there are now tools that can make the GHS transition easier.
ERA's SDS Authoring and Management Software fully automates the complex GHS chemical determinations for you, and authenticates all results against a minimum of 5 verified industry/regulatory lists to ensure your data is accurate and reliable. With SDSs authored in under ten minutes, an entire large facility can fully transition to GHS in a matter of hours. It's the most time and cost-effective tool for SDS authoring.
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