Cal/OSHA Considers Updates to Hazard Communications Standard

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Nov. 21, 2012

Last week, the California Occupational Safety and Health Act Standards Board (OSHA-SB) held a public hearing to consider comments on the proposed rulemaking to address Globally Harmonized System (GHS) updates to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). According to the notice, the proposed regulations address updated requirements for hazard communications as it pertains to updating HCS warning labels, signs and safety date sheets, which are to be consistent with the United Nations GHS classifications and labeling of chemicals to inform workers and other downstream users of manufactured and imported chemical products.

The stated purpose of this rulemaking is to classify and communicate chemical hazards in a manner “consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals”, as adopted in federal OSHA language. However, upon closer review, significant inconsistencies were indentified between the proposed California standard and the federal standard. One particular concern is the definition of a health hazard and the criteria for determining the health hazard under the new classification system. This difference could result in the state potentially being the only jurisdiction in the world operating under a different system of health hazard classification.

CMTA and others testified against the inclusion of these California-specific differences at the November 15th meeting and urged OSHA-SB to adopt language that is either the same or substantially the same as the federal standard. Because the proposed California standard contains such substantial deviations from the federal standard, we also urged OSHA-SB to utilize the state’s normal regulatory process, which allows for greater deliberation via the public notice and comment period, and not the expedited rulemaking process as staff recommended, which is generally used to adopted provisions that contain only editorial and format differences.

Because this was only a public hearing, the OSHA-SB did not act. The next step is for Cal/OSHA to draft responses to the comments made in writing and at the hearing. If changes are ultimately made to the proposed standard, such action might lead to a subsequent hearing on the subject. However, at this time, it is unclear whether or not the substantial differences proposed will be removed.

For more information on our objection to the proposed California standard, see our coalition letter: Coalition Letter 2012-11-08.pdf

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