It has been almost a year since the updated HazCom standard was published, now referred to as HazCom 2012. The intent of the update was to improve the health and safety of workers through more effective communications on chemical hazards. The original standard was performance-oriented, allowing manufacturers and importers to communicate information on labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS) utilizing any format they choose. The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) provides a more standardized approach that includes detailed criteria for determining the hazardous effects of a chemical, standardized label elements assigned by hazard class and category, and a standardized safety data sheet (SDS) format.

The first of four significant deadlines of HazCom 2012 is quickly approaching: employers are required to train their employees on the new label elements and SDS format by December 1, 2013. It is likely many workplaces will begin to receive labels and SDSs that are consistent with the GHS as this date gets closer. HazCom 2012 requires chemical manufacturers, importers and employers to be in compliance with all modified provisions of the final rule by June 1, 2015. However, distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015. During this time, the GHS classification system may identify new physical or health hazards not currently communicated on an MSDS or current labeling requirements. Employers will have until June 1, 2016 to train on the newly identified hazards.

* This date coincides with the European Union implementation date for classification of mixtures.