Under its new Hazard Communication Standard, OSHA required that by December 1, 2013, dentists and  other affected employers train employees regarding new label elements (pictograms, hazard statements, precautionary statements, signal words, and the like) and Material Safety Data Sheet formats to facilitate recognition and understanding. However, employers have until June 1, 2016, to update their alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

Why is OSHA requiring training on materials that will not be standardized until much later? OSHA believes that American workplaces will soon begin to receive new labels and SDSs since many American and foreign chemical manufacturers have already begun to produce new labels. OSHA requires employers to ensure that their employees are familiar with new formats as they may roll out.

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This update to the Hazard Communication Standard  (HCS) will provide a common approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. Once implemented, the revised standard aims to improve the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals.

In order to ensure chemical safety in the workplace, information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.

Labels will change in several ways. Under the revised HCS, once the hazard classification is completed, the standard specifies what information is to be provided for each hazard class and category. New labels will require the following elements:

• Pictogram: a symbol plus other graphic elements, such as a border, background pattern, or color that is intended to convey specific information about the hazards of a chemical. Each pictogram consists of a different symbol on a white background within a red square frame set on a point (i.e. a red diamond).

There are nine pictograms under the GHS. However, only eight pictograms are required under the HCS. You may view the new pictograms at www.osha.gov.

• Signal words: A single word used to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard will be displayed on the label. The signal words used are “danger” and “warning.” “Danger” is used for the more severe hazards, while “warning” is used for less severe hazards.

• Hazard Statement: A statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of  the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard will be displayed.

• Precautionary Statement: A phrase that describes recommended measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical, or improper storage or handling of a hazardous chemical, will be included.

The information required on the safety data sheet (SDS) will remain essentially the same as that in the current standard, which indicates what information has to be included on an SDS, but does not specify a format for presentation or order of information. The revised Hazard Communication Standard requires that the information on the SDS be presented using specific headings in a specified sequence. There will now be a specified 16-section format.

To order up-to-date OSHA compliance manuals and keep abreast of changes to OSHA regulations, you may call the American Dental Association Member Service Center at (800) 947-4746 or visit  ADAcatalog.org and search for OSHA compliance. You may also visit www.osha.gov for additional information.