Preparation needed to comply with revised OSHA labeling requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made changes to its labeling requirements for hazardous materials, revising guidelines that have been around since 1994.

Deadlines for training employees and implementing the changes are not yet urgent, with employee training required by December 2013 and full compliance by June 2015. Even so, many hospitals have not yet even learned of the upcoming changes, according to Laurie Miller, AAHA practice consultant.

Miller, who evaluates several veterinary practices each week, said she estimates only about half of the hospitals she has visited recently have been aware of the changes.

To prevent hospitals from being caught off-guard, NEWStat took a closer look at the new requirements and how practices can prepare for compliance.

Details of labeling requirement modifications

The new OSHA requirements state that as of June 1, 2015, all hazardous materials labels - both primary and secondary - will need to feature:

  • Pictograms
  • A signal word
  • Hazard and precautionary statements
  • Product identifier
  • Supplier identification

A sample image of the new label can be viewed on the OSHA website.

According to OSHA, the changes are intended to more closely align the Hazard Communication Standard with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

Benefits of implementing a globally standardized labeling system include safer handling of chemicals, less confusion in the workplace, and enhanced worker comprehension of hazards, OSHA said on its website.

While compliance will initially mean an adjustment period for veterinary practices, ultimately it will help all employees be on the same page when it comes to dealing with hazardous materials, according to Miller.

“Part of the rationale behind the new rules is to have a more consistent look both to the Material Safety Data Sheets (which will change to the term 'Safety Data Sheets') and the secondary labeling,” Miller said. “The new rules were implemented not to make a veterinary practice’s life miserable, but to state affirmatively that part of the purpose is to harmonize with international requirements.”

Tips for preparing for the requirement changes

Miller shared a few helpful tips for practices so they aren’t unprepared when the changes are officially implemented:

  • Avoid procrastination - “While the training must take place by December next year (2013) and full compliance must happen by June 2015, we tend to procrastinate, and the sooner a veterinary team takes care of this the easier the compliance will be with the new program,” Miller said.
  • Put someone in charge - Practices should pass the information about the labeling changes along to the person who is in charge of ensuring compliance, such as a safety officer or manager, Miller said. That person can then be responsible for ensuring that employee training and other steps toward compliance are completed on time.
  • Check for updates - “Keep checking the OSHA website frequently for more updated information. I am finding that they are updating on a fairly regular basis with new training information and definitions,” Miller said.

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