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The OSHA SDS/GHS Hazcom Compliance Myth

Hazcom Standards

After the passage of the revised Hazcom standard in 2012, there was a great deal of confusion and misinformation generated regarding the revision from the old standard and format to the new one. This was and still is especially true for employers attempting to comply with “Employee Right to Know (Understand)” rules. By now, everybody knows about the new standardized 16 section format, the new pictograms and hazard phrases, etc. It is also commonly known that the deadline for training employees on how to read and interpret the difference between the old and new format was December 1, 2013. But what about all of the existing (m)SDS’s you have already? What do you need to do to comply with the new Hazcom rule regarding updating your collection of (m)SDS’s?

Management Software

As someone who works for a company that offers (m)SDS management software, I hear over and over from our clients about the urgent need for them to update their (m)SDS binders so that they would be using the most recent “GHS compliant” version. When I asked them why they wanted to do this, every one of them said it was because they wanted to be compliant with the new GHS rule. When I asked them where they found out about the need to update their library, again almost every reply was unanimous… from a salesperson at a company who offers (m)SDS management software. OSHA compliance is serious business, but that means that there is also serious money to be made to help you maintain compliance. But how much of this is hype and what is really required?

OSHA Requirements

The fact is that you must retain the newest versions of the (m)SDS as you receive them from your suppliers. Beyond that, OSHA does not require you to proactively update your existing collection, as long as your employees know and understand the difference between the new and old format. If one of your suppliers re-authors their (m)SDS into the new format, they are required by law to send you the new revision and you are required to replace the old one you already have with the new one that you received. You are not required to search for updates proactively.

Keeping in mind that I work for a company that offers (m)SDS management software, I realize that any opinion I espouse should be met with appropriate skepticism. Therefore, please refer directly to what OSHA has said. A letter of clarification was issued on June 13, 2014 to address this issue. Here is the relevant text:

“…OSHA would not issue citations for maintenance of MSDSs when SDSs have not been received….employers may, but are not required to, contact manufacturers or distributers of products they have previously ordered to request new SDSs”.

Here is a link to the full text: OSHA letter of clarification