In 2012, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised the nation’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), aligning it with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The new standard will be fully implemented in 2016 and benefits workers by providing more understandable and consistent information on the appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals. Three elements of the new GHS include:
(1) Signal Words of either WARNING or DANGER must appear on primary container labels. These terms are not interchangeable. DANGER identifies chemicals that present a relatively greater or more immediate hazard to the worker as opposed to WARNING which identifies a lesser degree of hazard.
(2) Pictograms which are determined by the chemical hazard classification.
(3) Safety Data Sheets are required to be accessible to workers for the hazardous materials they work with at their site. The word material was removed from its name and all hazard sheets are referred to as Safety Data Sheets (SDS) which now have a standard 16-section format.
With funding through OSHA’s Susan Harwood Grant Program, the Rutgers School of Public Health developed and conducted a 7.5-hour Nature of Chemical Hazards & Implications of GHS Applied to Industry course to assist business owners, managers, and others responsible for worker safety in understanding employer responsibility under the GHS and to assist those with training responsibilities. Users can access the training materials developed for this program at ophp.sph.rutgers.edu/ghs.zip.
Rutgers faculty conducted an online survey with the 220 participants who attended one of the ten sessions of 7.5-hour course to identify the benefits as well as the challenges of implementing the GHS program. Survey data was obtained from a 21-question online survey 6–18 months post-training. In general, participants experienced several reoccurring challenges, including logistical difficulties of initiating a new and comprehensive training for all workers to the GHS changes, implementing GHS changes into their respective workplaces and receiving adequate management support and resources to initiate GHS efforts.
“The implementation of the revisions to the HCS is expected to prevent more than 500 workplace injuries and illnesses, and 43 fatalities annually,” said Dr. Koshy Koshy, the lead author of the study. “However, a Best Practice Guideline Document needs to be available to industry, especially to small businesses that may not have necessary resources to update their HCS programs, to comply with the revised standard.”
Dr. Koshy, the lead author and principle investigator is an instructor in environmental and occupational health at the Rutgers School of Public Health. Co-authors of the study include Dr. Mitchel A. Rosen, an assistant professor in health education and behavioral science and director of the Office of Public Health Practice and Michael Presutti, who served as an instructor of the 7.5-hour Nature of Chemical Hazards & Implications of GHS Applied to Industry; both are at the Rutgers School of Public Health.
Details of the study was published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety. Authors also recently presented the study results at the 2015 American Society of Safety Engineers Annual Conference in June.