New OSHA Hazard Communication Rules

There are changes coming to the hazard communication rules.  These changes focus on how risks associated with chemical hazards in the workplace are conveyed to employees.  The new communication standard is based on the Globally Harmonized System (GHS).  As the name indicates, GHS is meant to be universally adopted to simplify hazard communication.  These changes go into effect for employers on December 1, 2013.


OSHA’s training on the upcoming changes are broken down into three categories: safety labels, pictograms and Safety Data Sheets (Safety Data Sheet training).  The new safety label standard was devised as a consistent manner in which to quickly inform employees as to the types of hazards, as well as any required precautions, when working with a chemical.  Pictograms were created to replace the multiple methods used to communicate types of hazards. These pictograms are meant to allow an employee, with just a quick glance, to understand which hazard is associated with what chemical. For example, the pictogram of a gas cylinder lets an employee know they are handling a gas under pressure. Finally, the Material and Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) have been reformatted and renamed Safety Data Sheets (SDS).  The new SDSs are laid out in a more coherent outline as the old MSDSs were inconsistent between manufacturers and often required several minutes for an employee to find a piece of information.  In an emergency, time is very important when trying to locate the section discussing how best to administer first aid.

Available training:

  1. There is an interactive online course from SAIF on OregonOSHA’s website.
  2. Oregon OSHA is putting on two classes in December.  These are in Eugene on 12/10/2013 and Milwaukee on 12/12/2013.  To register, click this link.

What to do:

Train your employees on the new standards as well as provide a refresher on the old standards.   Some manufacturers will be rolling out SDSs in 2013 while others will still use MSDSs through 2014 and even into 2015. Use the online course, go over some examples of new labels and SDSs then review the pictograms. The rest of your hazard communication plan will remain the same. Be sure to document what you covered in the training and who was trained.  If you need assistance with the new standards please contact me.

Federal OSHA’s summary and FAQs:

Arin J. Carmack