Proposed Rule to Align HazCom Standard with GHS Clears OMB


On February 21, 2012, OSHA’s proposed rule to align the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) with the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) cleared review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This step is usually the last hurdle before publication of a final rule and means that we are likely to see the new rule published in the Federal Register within the next few weeks. Mercer HSE Networks has consistently supported the updating of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard to be consistent with the previous hitGHS.
OMB had 90 days to review the proposal—and, as is often the case, asked for a 30 day extension. During its review process, OMB heard from stakeholder groups concerned about inclusion of an “unclassified hazards” category and, in particular, OSHA’s mention of combustible dusts as one example of such hazards. This was seen by some as an “end run” by OSHA around the combustible dust rulemaking process. Other stakeholders pointed out that many chemical manufacturers already include this information on Material Safety Data Sheets and see this as good practice. Other concerns expressed by stakeholders included the length of time proposed by OSHA for employers to come into compliance with the new requirements.   
Administration lauded anticipated cost savings of new rule
As the presidential race moved into high gear, the administration slowed action on OSHA rulemaking activity. The GHS rulemaking seems to be the one exception.  The OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein highlighted the “GHS” rulemaking in comments on the Department of Labor’s May 2011 Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules, which laid out how this rule is expected to benefit employers, including creating substantial savings. 
The report notes, “OSHA’s preliminary estimate is that establishing a harmonized system for the classification and labeling of chemicals will create a substantial annualized savings for employers ranging from $585 million to $798.4 million. The majority of these benefits will be realized through increases in productivity for health and safety managers as well as for logistics personnel with savings ranging from $472 million to $569 million. Simplifying requirements for hazard communication training are estimated to provide savings up to $285.2 million. Additionally, establishing uniform safety data sheets and labels will save between $16 million and $32.2 million.”
The report continues, “The proposed modifications in its NPRM concerning the HCS are expected to benefit employers in two primary ways. First, the harmonization of hazard classifications, safety data sheet (SDSs) formats, and warning labels will also yield substantial savings to businesses. On the producer side, fewer different SDSs will have to be produced for affected chemicals, and many SDSs will be able to be produced at lower cost due to harmonization and standardization. Second, for users, OSHA expects that they will see reductions in operating costs due to the decreased number of SDSs, the standardization of SDSs that will make it easier to locate information and determine handling requirements, and other factors related to simplification and uniformity that will improve workplace efficiency. Finally, OSHA estimates that the revisions to the HCS will result in reductions in the cost of training employees on the HCS in future periods because standardized SDS and label formats will reduce the amount of time needed to familiarize employees with the HCS and fewer systems will have to be taught since all producers will be using the same system.”
If you have questions about the pending new rule, please contact Ann Brockhaus at