Wednesday, April 20, 2016

GHS Chemical Labeling: When to Re-Label Existing Chemicals – Guest Blog

by Tom Smith, Product Manager, Brady Corporation

In Tom’s first Guest Blog for Q Source, he answers the question of GHS labeling for older chemicals.

Does your facility have chemicals that have been sitting on the shelf for a year or more? OSHA’s final Hazard Communication Standard deadline around the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals is quickly approaching. All customers must be fully compliant with the requirements, including those for Safety Data Sheets and chemical container labels, by June 1 of this year. Read on to learn if you need to re-label them with new GHS labels.

To answer this question, you first need to determine if you have chemicals on your shelves without GHS labels. Under GHS, OSHA required all chemical manufacturers to begin shipping their chemicals with compliant labels by June 1 of last year. OSHA also provided distributors with an additional six months (up to December 1, 2015) to make sure their inventories were updated and they were shipping chemicals with compliant labels. With this in mind, it’s entirely possible you may have ordered a chemical from your distributor before December of last year and received containers that have the previously used “right-to-know” or NFPA diamond labels.

Once you determine if you have older chemical containers without GHS labels in your facility, the next step is deciding whether you need to re-label them. The good news is that OSHA provides some guidance on this issue, explaining that “employers are not responsible for updating labels on shipped containers, even if the shipped containers are labeled under HazCom 1994.”
"To answer this question, you first need to determine if you have chemicals on your shelves without GHS labels."
Although you’re not responsible for updating older labels, you do have a responsibility when it comes to damaged labels or undisclosed hazards. OSHA explains that “the employer must re-label items if the labels are removed or defaced. However, if the employer is aware of newly identified hazards that are not disclosed on the label, the employer must ensure that the workers are aware of the hazards as discussed below under workplace labels.”

What sort of additional hazards may be undisclosed? NFPA 704 does not address hazards such as carcinogens (cancer causing) or mutagens (causing birth or genetic defects in the unborn child). However, the OSHA 2012 HazCom/GHS regulation does consider those hazards. Therefore, if you have an existing chemical that you know is a carcinogen, you also have to indicate that hazard and appropriate precautions on your label.

As with most regulations, the details are the key to understanding the appropriate actions to take. When it comes to employee safety, particularly with a new regulation, taking the conservative route with over-communication and thorough training is the ideal option. While you’re not required to re-label older chemicals, be sure the presence of the differing labels is made clear to employees to ensure they are safely handling all containers in your facility. As the full GHS implementation takes effect, these older containers will eventually be circulated out with future chemical orders and GHS-compliant labels will be used consistently.

Thanks, Tom! Your valuable information is extremely useful for making educated chemical safety decisions. We look forward to your future contributions to the Q Source Resource.

For information about Brady GHS labels, Brady printers, and other Brady products, please visit QSource.com. You may also contact us via email or phone at 800-966-6020.

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