OSHA Adds Some Meat to the Bones

Posted on 3/9/2015 11:03:11 AM By Mark Collatz

As many of you are aware, ASC and several other associations have been urging the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to provide manufacturers with some relief from the upcoming 2015 deadlines for developing new GHS labels and safety data sheets.  In perfect a world, OSHA would have provided the formulating community with a blanket extension, but that was not meant to be.

That said, we did learn late last month that OSHA had mad some concessions and more importantly, put them in writing.

The agency has posted field office enforcement guidance that lays out—in black and white—what inspections officers should be looking for to demonstrate due diligence efforts by manufacturers to obtain chemical hazard information from companies farther up the supply chain.  That document can be found here.

In addressing some of the specific questions that have been previously raised by ASC and others, the agency now says to demonstrate “reasonable diligence” and “good faith efforts,” OSHA inspectors will expect a manufacturer to provide documentation of its efforts to:

  • Obtain classification information and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) from upstream suppliers;
  • Find hazard information  from alternative suppliers (chemical registries); and
  • Classify the data themselves

I think the important take away from this is that it is unlikely an OSHA inspector will simply accept the excuse that a manufacturer asked his upstream supplier for this information—and gosh darn it—he just hasn’t been responsive. OSHA is going to looking for convincing evidence that formulators have made some effort (documented), on their own, to come up with such information.

With regard to drop dead dates, OSHA now says that manufacturers have six months after they get all relevant information on a particular product to complete and publish an SDS for the product and another six months to have the product labeled.

This says to me that manufacturers should document dates when all information is in their hands for the development of safety information because that will serve (in the eyes of an OSHA inspector) as starting the final clock for creating SDSs and labels for a particular product.

In addition, it is also important that formulators let their customers know what is happening.  While OSHA has granted you more time through its inspection procedures, your customers will most likely be unaware of that reprieve. Start talking to them now. Share with them some of the challenges that you may be having obtaining information from your suppliers and let them know that you are working as quickly as possible to update the information you provide them.  You may even want to point them to the OSHA guidance document.

As a reminder, OSHA agreed to these concessions as a result of ASC and eight other associations raising the problems of our members complying with the June 2015 deadline. When originally issuing a June 15th compliance deadline in the final rule, OSHA included both raw material suppliers and the downstream formulators and ignored the important fact that the formulating community would be relying on their suppliers to get them information about their products in the same time period that they were creating their own safety documents. Clearly, it would have been better to have had some type of phased approach to the deadline structure, but that didn’t happen.

Without belaboring that point, our coalition of associations did get the agency to officially recognize these handicaps, and it agreed in late October that something should be done.  While not conceding to a request that the compliance deadline be extended for formulators, last fall, an OSHA official did allow enforcement staff to use wide discretion in determining whether an individual formulator had done everything possible to have products properly labeled and SDSs ready by the deadline.

ASC and our coalition partners believed that our members still needed more detailed information; together, we pushed OSHA for more information.  Those actions led directly to this new directive OSHA has issued.

I urge you to take a close look at the entire OSHA guidance document, and if you still have questions or concerns, please let me know.  While the deadline has been pushed back, time is still ticking.

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