Ending the Year on a Positive Note

Posted on 1/12/2015 12:21:23 PM By Mark Collatz

Too often, end of the year reviews seem to concentrate on all the things that went wrong during the prior 12 months.  It probably natural for many of us to see the regulatory glass as half empty rather than half full.  But, there have been some positive aspects to 2014 – maybe the most important one being OSHA’s acknowledgement that the implementation of the Global Harmonization Standard (GHS) deadline needs to be enforced a “little more gently” during the coming year.

As many you are probably aware, ASC and eight other associations petitioned OSHA last summer to extend the rule’s implementation deadline until 2017 for formulation operators. 

After some consideration, OSHA acknowledged the handicaps that formulators were experiencing trying to develop new labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for their products and agreed that something should be done. While deciding not to extend the compliance deadline, OSHA officials did conclude that their enforcement staff would be allowed to use wide discretion in determining whether due diligence was performed and good faith efforts made to obtain the necessary information to develop new labels and SDSs. OSHA officials also made it clear that they would provide guidance to Regional and Area Offices to ensure that these policy changes would be uniformly applied in individual situations.

Granted, these are very broad guidelines with many details that still need to be addressed. For example, OSHA needs to provide a clear and detailed definition of what constitutes a “good faith effort” and how can that be sufficiently documented to satisfy Agency enforcement personnel. Additionally, what will be considered a “reasonable time period” for all companies to be in full compliance with the regulation now that June 2015 is not a drop dead date? How will OSHA address products in the distribution chain?  Without a reasonable time period to clear previously labeled and HCS 1994 compliant products in existing inventories at various locations in the distribution chain, distributors may be out of compliance with the December 2015 date before the HCS compliant products are supplied.

These are all legitimate questions that ASC and the other original petitioners have raised with OSHA. We also have suggested some possible language for an OSHA compliance directive and expect to hear back from the Agency early this year.

In the interim, I can suggest a couple steps that should at least put you on the right track with any OSHA enforcement personnel visiting your facility in the latter half of 2015:

  • Be sure to document all efforts to obtain required information, including all attempts to contact suppliers;
  • Make reasonable efforts to find alternative suppliers that are capable of providing timely and accurate classification information;
  • Document any efforts to find the information on your own.

While you are taking those steps, ASC will seek answers from OSHA officials and continue to urge them to develop an unambiguous GHS enforcement policy that will not disrupt the adhesive and sealant supply in the coming years.

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