Changes Coming From OSHA

Oct. 2, 2009
OSHA has made several regulatory announcements recently, many of which apply directly to material handling professionals in manufacturing and distribution.

On Sept. 30, OSHA made at least two announcements impacting material handling operations. First, the agency introduced a national emphasis program (NEP) on recordkeeping “to assess the accuracy of injury and illness data recorded by employers.”

Under the recordkeeping NEP, OSHA will inspect occupational injury and illness records prepared by businesses and enforce regulatory requirements if it determines employers are under-recording injuries and illnesses. Inspections include a records review, employee interviews and a “limited” safety and health inspection of the workplace. The NEP will focus on industries with high injury and illness rates, according to OSHA.

"Accurate and honest recordkeeping is vitally important to workers' health and safety," says acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "This information is not only used by OSHA to determine which workplaces to inspect, but it is an important tool employers and workers can use to identify health and safety problems in their workplaces."

OSHA’s second announcement was a proposed rule published in the Sept. 30 edition of the Federal Register. The rule would align the hazard communication standard (HCS) with provisions of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

Under the current HCS, chemical manufacturers and importers must evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import and provide information to subsequent users. The current standard requires all employers to have a hazard communication program (HCP) for workers exposed to hazardous chemicals. An HCP includes container labels, safety data sheets and employee training, among other safety measures.

The United States, in conjunction with other countries, developed GHS to address inconsistencies in hazard classification and communications. The GHS is intended to serve as a single system for classifying chemicals and designing labels and safety data sheets. Under GHS, labels would include signal words, pictograms and hazard and precautionary statements. Information on safety data sheets would be presented in a designated order.

"Following the GHS approach will increase workplace safety, facilitate international trade in chemicals and generate cost savings from production efficiencies for firms that manufacture and use hazardous chemicals," says Barab.