OSHA Outlook: Hazardous Chemicals Receiving Closer Attention
Managers also need to pay closer attention to their departments’ handling of hazardous chemicals, such as cleaning products, solvents, paints, adhesives, and compressed gasses, and to their systems of labeling these materials under OSHA’s hazard communications standard.
The Global Harmonized System (GHS) of classifying hazardous chemicals “is not an under-the-radar thing, but it’s a huge change by OSHA, a revision to the hazard communication standard,” Casavant says. “It’s interesting to note the standard is typically the most frequently cited OSHA standard. It’s always been a hot topic for anybody that’s using chemicals.”
The compliance deadline for companies providing end-user training on the system’s new labeling requirements and safety data sheet format was Dec. 1, 2013. Employers do not need to fully comply with GHS standards until 2016. Other important deadline dates are: June 1, 2015, when employers must comply with all final rule modifications; Dec. 1, 2015, when all shipped containers must have new GHS labels; and June 1, 2016, when employers must update labeling and hazard communications programs, as well as provide training for any additional physical and health hazards they identify.
Workplace violence and ergonomic injuries are becoming higher enforcement priorities for OSHA, says Casavant, who predicts that both areas will receive their own sets of standards soon. OSHA currently covers both areas, but under its general duty clause but not under specific standards.
"Ergonomic injuries are some of the most common injuries in the workplace,” Casavant says. “It is a serious concern, and at some point in time OSHA will address it again. The current political climate is right for this to happen.”
Violent acts in schools and health care facilities have become more common in recent years, and establishing standards to address them is an obvious point of increased emphasis for OSHA.
Workplace violence “extends past schools, (to) where you have any kind of environment where you deal with the public and you don’t have the ability to control who comes on site as much as others do,” Casavant says. “There’s always the lover’s quarrel and things such as domestic violence, that spill into the workplace. The issue of workplace violence could (receive increased emphasis), especially if we have these continued trends.”