With the GHS Compliance deadline (June 1, 2015) in the U.S. already passed, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with OSHA’s (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) position on enforcing the deadline.
Below we outline a few of the most important parts of OSHA’s official enforcement memorandum, and you can find a link to the full OSHA notice at the end.
OSHA’s position can be summed up as: downstream manufacturers unable to meet the deadline will not be penalized as long as they can show they’ve done “reasonable diligence and good faith” to classify their materials according to the Hazard Communication Standards 2012 (HCS 2012).
In other words, OSHA will not punish manufacturers or importers who were unable to comply because their upstream suppliers did not provide them with properly classified materials.
This also means that upstream manufacturers should not expect the same lenience from OSHA on meeting the GHS deadline.
Understanding Reasonable Diligence and Good Faith Efforts
It’s essential to understand how “reasonable diligence and good faith” are measured. If you are audited, the auditor has been directed to assess your overall actions and efforts to comply by June 1, 2015. You will be asked to show documentation of substantive efforts to do all of the following:
- Obtain classification information and SDSs from upstream suppliers.
- Find hazard information from alternative sources.
- Classify the data yourself.
If you’ve only pressured your suppliers to send accurate SDSs and can’t show any internal efforts to classify your materials to the best of your ability, you haven’t shown reasonable diligence.
You are also expected to have had both written and spoken communications with your upstream suppliers to obtain updated classification information.
In addition, for each chemical mixture shipped by a manufacturer or importer after the GHS deadline, OSHA will consider whether you have:
- Developed and documented the process used to gather necessary classification information from upstream suppliers and the status of those efforts.
- Developed and documented efforts to find hazard information from alternate sources.
- Provided a written account of continued dialogue with upstream suppliers. Must also include dated copies of all relevant written communication.
- Provided a written account of continued dialogue with your distributors. Must also include dated copies of all relevant written communication informing them why you are unable to currently comply with HCS 2012.
- Developed a course of action you will follow to make the necessary changes to the mixture/material’s SDSs and labels.
For these five points, any combination of the above may be considered to meet the criteria for reasonable diligence and good faith efforts. This means you do not necessarily need to have all five types of actions taken for each and every chemical you ship… but we recommend that you take all actions necessary to prove your due diligence.
Two other points influence how reasonable diligence and good faith efforts are judged: all actions must be taken at a time that would reasonably enable you to comply with the June 1 deadline (i.e. efforts initiated May 31 probably won’t help your case), and you must have a timeline for when you expect to be HCS 2102 compliant.
Once you have all the necessary information from your upstream suppliers, you must create GHS-compliant SDSs for any product you ship within six months, and have a GHS-compliant label produced within six months of developing the product’s SDS.
A Note for Distributors
Distributors currently have a deadline of December 1, 2015 to ship and distribute products with GHS-compliant SDSs and labels. However, OSHA will also allow for enforcement discretion for distributors that have taken the time to do reasonable diligence and good faith efforts (following the same guidelines listed above).
Visit OSHA's website to read the whole memorandum.