New GHS Deadlines Coming

The GHS changes to the HCS are being phased in beginning with the revisions to the HCS that were finalized last year (HazComm 2012) through June 2016. The following table shows the deadlines for compliance with the HCS:

Effective Completion Date



December 1, 2013

Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format.


June 1, 2015*
December 1, 2015

Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule, except:
The Distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label.

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers

June 1, 2016

Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program, as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.


Transition Period to the effective completion dates noted above

May comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (the final standard), or the current standard, or both.

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers

*This date coincides with the EU implementation date for classification of mixtures.

While the compliance dates are concrete, OSHA guidance states that “during the phase-in period, employers would be required to be in compliance with either the existing HCS or the revised HCS, or both. OSHA recognizes that hazard communication will go through a period of time where labels and SDSs under both standards will be present in the workplace. This will be considered acceptable, and employers are not required to maintain two sets of labels and SDSs for compliance purposes.”

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The most immediate deadline, December 1, 2013, for employee training on new label and SDS formats is especially important, according to OSHA, because many companies, both in the United State and abroad, have already begun using the new GHS formats. OSHA stresses that employee familiarity with the new formatting will help them “understand how to use them and access information effectively.” In addition to initial training, the revised HCS also requires that workers be retrained for newly identified physical or health hazards by June 1, 2016.

Regarding label information, OSHA now requires chemical manufacturers, distributers, importers, or employers to update label information within 6 months of becoming aware of any new “significant information” regarding hazards of a chemical. They must also ensure that any such chemicals shipped after that time contain the new label information.

Although the GHS is considered a “living document” (meaning it is constantly being updated for relevance), OSHA will be adopting new changes in 2-year cycles through rulemaking options that include:

  • Technical updates for minor terminology changes,
  • Direct Final Rules for test clarification, and
  • Notice and Comment rulemaking for more substantive or controversial updates, such as additional criteria or changes in health or safety hazard classes or categories.

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Overall, OSHA estimates revisions to the HCS will cost “$201 million a year on an annualized basis for the entire Unites States…” This figure represents the sum of four major elements that include classifying chemical hazards and revising SDSs and labels, employee training, establishing management familiarity and related activities required for industry adoption, and printing packaging and labels in color for hazardous chemicals.

On the upside, OSHA estimates that the HCS revisions will prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries and illnesses annually, which translates to “318 non-lost-workday injuries and illnesses, 203 lost-workday injuries and illnesses, and 64 chronic illnesses annually. The monetized value of this reduction in occupational risks is an estimated $250 million a year on an annualized basis.”

Associated productivity improvements will save an additional estimated $475.2 million for safety and logistics staff as well as benefits resulting from the standardized SDS format and consistency in training new staff and for firms in or considering taking part in international trade.

To put these cost/benefit numbers in terms that apply to individual companies:

  • Each chemical manufacturer and importer will see a total net financial loss of $15 over 3 years when costs of reclassification of chemicals and benefits of lower injury costs and productivity improvements are balanced.
  • Each employer that uses chemicals will see a total net financial benefit of $150 over 3 years in cost savings and work efficiencies.