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Chemical Firms Are Unprepared for GHS Regulations

Dec. 11, 2015
The damage that could result from non-compliance to new chemical labeling requirements includes loss of customers, regulatory and customer fines, and delays in the supply chain.

A survey this fall of companies impacted by the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of chemical classification and labeling regulations found only 45% had been able to meet the June 1, 2015, deadline for compliance, and 65% needed at least another six to12 months before they will be ready to comply.

About 90% of the 150 companies surveyed were located in the United States, where many companies were unaware of the new standards that were adopted by the federal government to bring U.S. hazardous materials handling and labeling standards into accord with international standards adopted by the United Nations.

These rules, covering everything from employee training and records management to placarding and labeling, are lengthy and complex.

The labeling solutions company Loftware Inc. conducted the survey and reported in late September that the widespread failure to comply with the new standards was largely due to a lack of awareness regarding the specific requirements. More than 43% of respondents cited the steep learning curve as a major obstacle in meeting GHS labeling requirements.

Recent reports from national trade associations representing industries where the handling of hazardous chemicals is common show that the situation has not changed much since Loftware conducted its poll, and many companies are still struggling to comply.

Although the Loftware research focused primarily on labeling, anecdotal reports reinforced that warehouse and other logistics providers face a steep learning curve when it comes to training and other requirements due to the government’s failure earlier to reach out to educate the industries involved.

“With GHS, companies face more regulations in chemical labeling than ever before and it seems clear that the majority of companies still don’t have the correct labeling systems in place to accommodate this new level of complexity,” states Deborah Grant, industry manager with Loftware.

According to the survey, 59% of respondents were not able to meet all six of the necessary elements of a GHS label. Among those who haven’t completed their requirements, 35% say they still need to configure their barcode labeling software solutions; 32% need to ensure enterprise applications have the necessary data; and 24% had yet to finalize business plans for GHS labeling.

Of special concern was that only 57% of supply chain professionals rate their organizational awareness of GHS labeling requirements as “extremely aware.”

The damage that could happen to their businesses resulting from non-compliance is considerable. Of those surveyed, 72% believe the inability to meet these standards could result in loss of customers, regulatory and customer fines, disruptions to their business, and delays in the supply chain.

Earlier this year OSHA announced that following the June 1 deadline manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals could release existing stock under former requirements if they were diligent. That deadline ended on Dec. 1.

Last July OSHA released a 124-page “OSHA Instruction” booklet, cancelling previous interim enforcement guidance instructions. However, when it comes to supply chain labeling, OSHA instructions have remained consistent.

For the latest compliance information, go to and obtain the document titled, “Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012), effective July 9, 2015 (Directive Number: 02-02-079).”

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