In an important step towards publication of a final rule, OSHA has sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) the draft proposed rule to align the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) with the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). OMB has 90 days to review the proposal—and sometimes asks for extensions of that time. If the review is completed in 90 days, we could see a final rule published by mid-February 2012.
“We are encouraged by this significant step toward the promulgation of a final rule,” said Frank White, global director of Mercer ORC HSE Networks, in an October 26 story in the BNA Occupational Safety and Health Daily. “Mercer ORC has consistently supported the updating of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard to be consistent with the GHS, and we look forward to the timely publication of the final rule.”
OMB Director lauds anticipated cost savings of new rule
As the presidential race heats up, the administration has slowed action on OSHA rulemaking activity. This rulemaking may be the one exception. The OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Adminisrator Cass Sunstein highlighted the “GHS” rulemaking in comments on the Department of Labor’s May 2011 Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules. The plan lays out how this rule is expected to benefit employers, including creating substantial savings.
The report notes, “OSHA’s preliminary estimate is that establishing a harmonized system for the classification and labeling of chemicals will create a substantial annualized savings for employers ranging from $585 million to $798.4 million. The majority of these benefits will be realized through increases in productivity for health and safety managers as well as for logistics personnel with savings ranging from $472 million to $569 million. Simplifying requirements for hazard communication training are estimated to provide savings up to $285.2 million. Additionally, establishing uniform safety data sheets and labels will save between $16 million and $32.2 million.”
The report continues, “The proposed modifications in its NPRM concerning the HCS are expected to benefit employers in two primary ways. First, the harmonization of hazard classifications, safety data sheet (SDSs) formats, and warning labels will also yield substantial savings to businesses. On the producer side, fewer different SDSs will have to be produced for affected chemicals, and many SDSs will be able to be produced at lower cost due to harmonization and standardization. Second, for users, OSHA expects that they will see reductions in operating costs due to the decreased number of SDSs, the standardization of SDSs that will make it easier to locate information and determine handling requirements, and other factors related to simplification and uniformity that will improve workplace efficiency. Finally, OSHA estimates that the revisions to the HCS will result in reductions in the cost of training employees on the HCS in future periods because standardized SDS and label formats will reduce the amount of time needed to familiarize employees with the HCS and fewer systems will have to be taught since all producers will be using the same system.”
You can find the Department of Labor’s May 2011 Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/2011-regulatory-action-plans/DepartmentofLaborPreliminaryRegulatoryReformPlan.pdf