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News & Knowledge

OSHA existing hazardous chemical stock

OSHA: existing stock of hazardous chemicals don't have to be relabeled

08 June 2015

Relabeling Unnecessary for Stock Packaged Before June 1 Deadline, OSHA Memo Says


By Robert Iafolla

June 3 — Manufacturers or importers of hazardous chemicals don't have to relabel existing stock that was packaged for shipment in boxes, pallets or shrinkwrap prior to the June 1 deadline for the new hazard communication standard, OSHA said in a guidance memorandum released May 29.  Although relabeling isn't necessary, they must provide labels and safety data sheets compliant with the new standard for each piece of stock packaged within the container, according to the guidance.  Stock packaged for shipment after June 1 should have the new format labels and safety data sheets, the guidance said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the guidance to supplement its February memorandum explaining how employers shipping mixtures can comply with the new hazard communication standard when they haven't received information from their suppliers necessary to craft new labels and safety data sheets (45 OSHR 193, 2/26/15).

The latest guidance appears to address a petition submitted by the law firm Keller & Heckman LLP requesting clarification on relabeling requirements for prepackaged stock.
“The agency's guidance issued late last week allays many of the concerns our members have regarding compliance with the new OSHA requirements, most importantly, that they may continue to ship previously packaged and labeled products,” National Association of Chemical Distributors President Eric Byer said in a June 1 statement.

While the new hazard communication standard set a June 1 compliance date for manufacturers and importers, distributors have until Dec. 1. In the guidance memo, OSHA said that distributors don't have to relabel stock packaged for delivery prior to the Dec. 1 date.  This exemption expires in December 2017, when all pieces of stock must have labels and safety data sheets compliant with the new standard, OSHA said.  Businesses that repackage, blend or mix hazardous chemicals sometimes consider themselves distributors, but OSHA said they are manufacturers for purposes of the hazard communication standard's requirements.

Additional Guidance
Dionne Williams, director of OSHA's Office of Health Enforcement, provided additional guidance on complying with the standard that goes beyond the recent guidance memo June 2 during her appearance at the American Industrial Hygiene Association's conference in Salt Lake City.  There are case-by-case exceptions to labeling requirements for very small packages, Williams said. While the agency won't allow employers to use their own shorthand to condense information on a label, they can include a limited amount of information, Williams said. The more limited label should include a note saying full information is on the label for the outside container that the small package was shipped in, she said.  When dealing with different labels from other agencies or foreign governments, Williams said employers can use the other labels as supplemental information along with the label required by the hazard communication materials. The caveat, Williams said, is that the additional label must not contradict the hazard communication standard label.
“All of our guidance—the information that I've discussed and additional ones I haven't touched on—will be included in our hazard communication directive,” Williams said. “The directive is really written for our compliance officers. It's the tool they use to see how to go about enforcing standards, so it is really useful to the regulated community.”  The directive should be issued “soon,” Williams said. The May 29 guidance memo said the directive “is now anticipated to be approved for issuance shortly after June 1, 2015.”

Reproduced with permission from Occupational Safety & Health Reporter, 45 OSHR 561 (Jun. 4, 2015). Copyright 2015 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)