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Hazard Communication Standard Final Rule


The revised Hazard Communication Standard incorporated portions of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (Third Edition) and now provides a universal set of criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and specifies new hazard communication elements. Here’s information to help you comply with OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard.

Since 1985, the Hazard Communication Standard [29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.1200] has been the primary tool for providing employers and employees with information about the chemical hazards in their workplaces. Until the 2012 revision the performance-oriented standard allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to convey information on labels and material safety data sheets (MSDSs) in whatever format they desired. While the information has been helpful, a more standardized approach to classifying the hazards and conveying the information was needed.

Enter the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS is an international approach to the classification of hazardous chemicals and the communication of hazards to workers via standardized shipped container labels and safety data sheets (SDSs). It is not a law; rather it is a system with components that countries can adopt into their own systems. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted portions of the Third Edition of GHS into the Hazard Communication Standard on March 26, 2012. It was effective 60 days thereafter (May 25, 2012) and had a four year transition period.

The parts of the Hazard Communication Standard not related to GHS remained largely unchanged. These parts include the basic framework, scope and exemptions. The revised Standard still requires chemical manufacturers and importers to classify the chemicals they produce or import and to provide hazard information to employers and workers. It provides harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and requires specific label elements on shipped containers and mandatory standardized 16-section safety data sheets.

Major Changes


Definitions: In order to be consistent with GHS, some existing definitions were modified and/or deleted and replaced with new definitions.

Classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are still required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. The revised Standard provides specific hazard classification criteria to address health and physical hazards, as well as the classification of chemical mixtures.

Written Program: OSHA maintained the provisions of this section with no significant changes. However, existing written programs need to be modified to reflect new terminology, definition changes and labeling.

Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a standardized shipped container label that includes a signal word, pictogram(s), hazard statement(s), product identifier, supplier identification and precautionary statement(s).

SDSs: Chemical manufacturers, importers or distributors must provide SDSs for each hazardous chemical to downstream users. The SDSs are presented in a standardized user-friendly, 16-section format.

Information and Training: Employers are required to provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of their initial assignment and whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced into the area. The training must include methods and observations used to detect the presence or release of the chemical, physical and health hazards, protective measures, labeling and explanation of the SDS.

Benefits of the New Standard


The Hazard Communication Standard covers over 43 million workers who produce or handle hazardous chemicals in more than five million workplaces across the country. The revisions to the Standard were forecasted to prevent more than 500 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 fatalities annually by helping:

Improve the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive.

Enhance worker comprehension of hazards, especially for low and limited-literacy workers, reduce confusion in the workplace, facilitate safety training that results in safer handling and use of chemicals.

Provide workers quicker and more efficient access to information on the SDSs.



What does the shipped container label look like and require? The shipped container label requires six items: product identifier, supplier identification, precautionary statement(s), pictogram(s), hazard statement(s) and signal word. The required six elements must be affixed to, printed on or attached to the immediate container of the chemical or to the outside packaging. Additionally, the signal word, hazard statement(s) and pictogram(s) must be grouped together on the shipped container label and not separated on the container or outside packaging

When it comes to workplace labeling, there are two options available:

  • Label with the same information listed on the shipped container label; or
  • Use of an alternate label method that provides general information regarding the physical and health hazards.

The revised Standard continues to allow employers the flexibility to use other alternate workplace labeling systems such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 704 diamond system or Hazardous Material Identifications System (HMIS). Any workplace labeling method may be used as long as the employee understands how to read the label and understand the hazards being communicated.

Health Hazard Symbol

Flame Hazard Symbol

Exclamation Mark Hazard Symbol


Health Hazard
Reproductive Toxicity
Respiratory Sensitizer
Target Organ Toxicity
Aspiration Toxicity

Emits Flammable Gas
Organic Peroxides

Exclamation Mark
Irritant (skin and eye)
Skin Sensitizer
Acute Toxicity
Narcotic Effects
Respiratory Tract Irritant
Hazardous to Ozone Layer


Gas Cylinder Hazard Symbol

Corrosion Hazard Symbol

Exploding Bomb Hazard Symbol


Gas Cylinder
Gases Under

Skin Corrosion/Burns
Eye Damage
Corrosive to Metals

Exploding Bomb
Organic Peroxides


Flame over Circle Hazard Symbol

Environment Hazard Symbol

Skull and Crossbones Hazard Symbol


Flame Over Circle

Aquatic Toxicity

Skull and Crossbones
Acute Toxicity
(fatal or toxic)


Safety Data Sheets


SDSs are the backbone of the Hazard Communication Standard. With the revision of the Standard, there was a name change (material safety data sheets are now safety data sheets) and more importantly a standardized 16-section format with a required order of sections became mandatory. Sections include:

  • Identification includes product identifier; manufacturer or distributor name, address, phone number; emergency phone number; recommended use; restrictions on use.
  • Hazard(s) Identification includes all hazards regarding the chemical; required label elements.
  • Composition/Information on Ingredients includes information on chemical ingredients; trade secret claims.
  • First-Aid Measures include important symptoms/effects, acute, delayed; required treatment.
  • Fire-Fighting Measures list suitable extinguishing techniques, equipment; chemical hazards from fire.
  • Accidental Release Measures list emergency procedures; protective equipment; proper methods of containment and cleanup.
  • Handling and Storage lists precautions for safe handling and storage, including incompatibilities.
  • Exposure Controls/Personal Protection lists OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs); American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs); and any other exposure limit used or recommended by the chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer preparing the SDS where available as well as appropriate engineering controls; personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Physical and Chemical Properties list the chemical’s characteristics.
  • Stability and Reactivity lists chemicals and possibility of hazardous reactions
  • Toxicological Information includes routes of exposure; related symptoms, acute and chronic effects; numerical measures of toxicity.
  • Ecological Information* provides information to evaluate the environmental impact of the chemical(s) if it were released to the environment.
  • Disposal Considerations* provide guidance on proper disposal practices, recycling or reclamation of the chemical(s) or its container and safe handling practices.
  • Transport Information* provides guidance on classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous materials by road, air, rail or sea.
  • Regulatory Information* identifies the safety, health and environmental regulations specific for the product that is not indicated anywhere else on the SDS.
  • Other Information includes the date of preparation or last revision.

*Note: This information must be provided on the 16-section SDS. Since other agencies regulate this information, OSHA does not enforce sections 12 through 15 (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(2)).

Other OSHA Rules Affected


Flammable and Combustible Liquids 29 CFR 1910.106 The revised Hazard Communication Standard amends flammable and combustible liquids definitions to conform to new flammability classes based on new flash point test methods and boiling points. The term “combustible” has been eliminated and replaced with “flammable.” The definition of flammable aerosols has also been incorporated into the revised Standard and updated with the acceptable methods for determining flash points.

Process Safety Management (PSM) 29 CFR 1910.119 and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) 29 CFR 1910.120 have also incorporated the new flammable liquid classes for consistency.

Welding 29 CFR 1910.252 has incorporated the shipped container label format on welding consumables for consistency.

Substance-Specific Health Standards 29 CFR 1910.1001 to 1910.1450 (Asbestos, Lead, Cadmium, etc.) Most of the changes made were editorial to be consistent with the shipped container labeling and SDS terminology. The wording on the signage required in these Standards, particularly cancer-causing chemicals, has been modified to reflect required standardized wording

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