As of the 25th of May, 2012, The United States’ Occupational Safety and Health Administration introduced a slew of new changes to their hazard communication standard. Revisions to this standard, also known as the worker right-to-know rule, are focused on reducing confusion about hazardous materials in the workplace.

The changes to OSHA’s current standard will finally align the United States with The United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, or GHS. The focus given to correct labeling and handling of chemical hazards in the workplace, as well as the improvement of safety training for workers. The important thing is to educate workers on these chemical hazards and introduce them to a new, 16-section safety data sheets, or SDSs, which will replace OSHA’s existing material safety data sheets, or MSDSs.

Since these changes will affect so many, OSHA has laid out a 4-year transition period for compliance with these new GHS requirements in the hazard communication, or HazCom, rule. Within the first year, employees should be trained in how to read and interpret chemical labels and SDSs, but it does not matter whether they are complying with pre-GHS or revised HazCom standards. By June of 2015, OSHA will require that all chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors are complying with the GHS rule, including the classification of chemical hazards and the preparation of new labels and SDSs. All other employers that use, handle, and/or store such chemicals should follow by December of that year. And by 2016, all employers must update their labeling system and hazard communication program and train employees according to the new GHS standard.

So, even though the new GHS standards bring with them some serious changes for employees and their employers, there is a fair phase-in period to help with the adjustment. And hopefully, after the new labels and sheets and training are used, there is less confusion and incidents when it comes to the handling, storage, and manufacturing of hazardous chemicals.