Trying to keep up with OSHA regulations is a constant time-consuming challenge that requires perpetual study to avoid penalties. However, it's essential to stay on top of these if you're working in the industrial sector where injuries are continually possible.
OSHA consistently updates their procedures to assure those in industry continue to adhere to the best possible safety actions.
The most recent is OSHA's GHS requirements under their revised Hazard Communications Standard. If you're new to what GHS means, it stands for "Globally Harmonized System" related to classifying and labeling chemicals. Created by the United Nations in 2003, it became a standard for properly labeling chemicals in the workplace and what information should go on safety data sheets.
With the U.S. being an active participant in the GHS creation, OSHA later stepped in and proposed a rule in 2009 about GHS aligning with HCS. This eventually happened by 2012, and they set various deadlines for companies to comply.
However, a recent survey finds companies are unprepared for OSHA's HCS and GHS deadline. After four deadlines already passing, many companies still aren't ready to take on these new regulations.
Let's look at why this is happening and what lies ahead.
Details on the GHS Survey
The numbers are sobering on how many industries aren't ready for the GHS guidelines. In the above survey, it's shown that 50% of all EH&S professionals haven't been able to reach OSHA's imposed deadline. Many of these industries also haven't even begun the GHS obligations.
Over 48% of these respondents say it'll take at least another 120 days to provide everything needed to adhere to the requirements. Unfortunately, with these percentages, OSHA has to contend most industries fall well under the readiness level expected already four years ago.
Chemical manufacturers are particularly under pressure to adhere to these regulations, and it all starts with the requirements for safety data sheets. Much of this created a snowball effect that went beyond the last deadline in June of this year.
Still, OSHA expected some would miss the deadline and decided to put in some good faith efforts to make sure companies complied.
OSHA's Attempt to Relent on Penalties
You have to give credit to OSHA for giving chemical manufacturers more time to get ready for the GHS requirements. Companies could avoid penalties by using OSHA's "Good Faith" system and showing reasonable diligence in getting ready for the regulations. If manufacturers could show a reasonable timetable on when they'd comply, they could also eliminate fines.
Even so, many companies have gone beyond any reasonable time frame. Securing updated safety data sheets from upstream providers is one of the main reasons, though it's not the only thing. It also includes time needed to identify risks on the new labels, chemical classification, and staff training.
The SDS authoring process takes additional time, if not even outsourcing this work to get it done.
Chemical manufacturing companies have to spend extra money on other things as well to make sure the proper labeling procedures occur accurately.
How Much Are Companies Spending for GHS?
In the above report from OH&S, a readiness survey showed companies spent less than $50,000 up until this last June to get ready for GHS. Some of this had to go toward EH&S software to allow for a more efficient system in the new labeling procedures.
The above expenses include staff training, SDS sourcing, and paying for third-party support services.
Due to all these painful realities, OSHA is likely going to have to impose yet another deadline to make sure every chemical manufacturer properly complies. Fortunately, most companies cite these safety procedures as very important to them, and it only requires proper time to make sure it's not a rush job.