GHS and US Regulations: Important Differences Remain

by Greg Wimble, on December 5, 2017

Will U.S. rules begin to echo GHS more closely?
Will U.S. rules begin to echo GHS more closely?

The name Globally Harmonized System appears to indicate that the chemical labeling guidelines therein will span the world. However, unless companies learn the variable ways in which different countries employ elements of the relevant rules, their GHS labeling efforts may inadvertently fall out of compliance on a local level.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration maintains its own Hazard Communication Standards, with the European Union keeping unique Classification, Labeling and Packaging regulations. Studying the differences between the basic GHS outline and these more specialized policies will be critical for any chemical manufacturing company, with each facing unique challenges based on its target market.

Greater Alignment Planned?
Chemical Watch recently noted that OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency have publicly considered efforts to close the gap between their own labeling requirements with GHS. The government organizations are also thinking about bringing domestic regulations closer to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System used in Canada.

Despite the official interest in closer alignment between U.S. rules and GHS, there is uncertainty around whether the plan will actually come to fruition. Chemical Watch reported that the head of the relevant OSHA branch is appointed by the executive branch, and that the Trump administration hasn't picked someone to fill the post yet.

The latest comments, dating from October, indicate more support for harmonization than those in July. Then, Safety + Health magazine reported that no update to the standard would come in the near future. The problem of administration uncertainty was already being felt, with OSHA officials unsure when they would have new direction.

Labeling Must Adapt
Given the mixed signals from officials interested in updating U.S. standards and those individuals' inability to do so, it's clear that chemical manufacturers will have to have flexible systems in place. Chemical labeling today relies on navigating the differences between countries' requirements. In the future, the rules may change, which would necessitate a revised approach.

For more on Chemical Labeling check out our report on the topic.

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