Bending OSHAs Ear on GHS


Phasing in OSHAs proposed new chemical hazard communication rules by industry segments and providing more time for downstream businesses to comply would help smooth its implementation, Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association President Cathy Novak told a recent OSHA public hearing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration held informal public hearings March 2-5 in Washington D.C. on its proposal to revise the Hazard Communication Standard to align with a globally harmonized standard (GHS). OSHA has scheduled additional public hearings for March 31 in Pittsburgh and April 13 in Los Angeles.

OSHA is proposing to modify its existing Hazard Communication Standard to conform with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The agency said the proposed modifications will improve the quality and consistency of information provided to employers and employees regarding chemical hazards and associated protective measures.

Novak, who is technical services manager and product formulator for Pontiac, Mich.-based Eastern Oil Co., spoke at the March 4 hearing. She emphasized the need for a phased-in approach. If this GHS change is implemented across the board for everyone at once, it will cause pandemonium, confusion and the cost burden to small business will be catastrophic in this economy, she stated. Accordingly, the GHS compliance schedule for product formulators and other downstream users must be phased-in over a number of years, after the chemical manufacturing industrys GHS conversion is substantially complete.

She noted that when the European Union tackled the issue, its Classification and Labeling effort extended the compliance deadline three years for formulators. While a three-year phase-in may be workable, small businesses here in the U.S. will need at least five years to fully implement this program, she stated.

Novak recounted an ILMA survey that asked members how long they thought it would take and how much it would cost them to become GHS compliant. The average cost per safety data sheet was about $3,000, the survey found, and a realistic time was about five years on average. The initial OSHA estimates were significantly lower, so I think they [OSHA] were a little taken aback by that, Novak told Lube Report. Initial research indicated the software required to create the new MSDS alone would average more than $20,000, she told the OSHA panel.

In her testimony, Novak described a semi-synthetic machining fluid she had developed at Eastern Oil. It is comprised of 15 different chemical components, one of which is water. When the new GHS regulations go into effect, I will have to obtain 14 new MSDS from 14 different vendors, Novak told the OSHA panel. Each of these vendors will need to either create a new MSDS or, if it is a compounded additive, go to those various vendors for each of the component raw material in that additive and write a new MSDS using their suppliers latest GHS compliant version.

Eastern Oil has more than 2,000 manufactured products which contain, on average, four components, Novak said. That would require the company to collect more than 6,000 GHS-compliant raw material safety data sheets to re-write all of its 2,000 MSDS. The company also rebrands or resells an additional 2,000 products.

Novak estimated the work created by the compliance project would require at least one full-time person several years to accomplish, and only if all the suppliers had their compliance work done before her company got started on it. Requiring the simultaneous compliance by both the raw material manufacturers and the finished product manufacturers is just not feasible, Novak emphasized.

She said that the panel members thanked her and each talked to her independently afterwards and asked more questions. There was no level of antagonism, it was mostly inquiry, she told Lube Report. I felt that the hearing was a good opportunity, and I had performed a service for the small, downstream compounder/blenders that will be impacted quit a bit.

Adrian Krygsman, director of product registration for New Jersey-based Troy Corp., spoke on behalf of the American Chemistry Councils Biocides Panel. He spoke about the need to clarify whether OSHA or EPAs regulations take precedence when they overlap, and to provide alternatives or exemptions for pesticide products to avoid conflicts in such cases. Krygsman pointed out that EPA has not yet adopted GHS for pesticide products.

EPA registers all pesticides and pesticide products under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The agency considers disinfectants, antimicrobials and antibacterial products to be pesticides. Krygsman noted that biocides used in metalworking fluids fall under the FIFRA.

The OSHA-proposed rule on GHS would usurp the jurisdiction of EPA and would result in an irresolvable conflict for pesticide registrants, Krygsman told the hearing. Registrants could not be in compliance with both the OSHA standard and FIFRA. They would be subject to enforcement action because of this irresolvable conflict, resulting in potential fines for product misbranding.

Additional costs would occur from the need to maintain different labels to address both EPA FIFRA-required labeling and OSHA GHS labeling, he added.

The acknowledgement by OSHA that EPA controls the content of the label on the container is not sufficient to address these very serious issues, Krygsman stressed. The panel believes that the two agencies must cooperate in an effort to avoid this regulatory jurisdictional dilemma, and to assure pesticide registrations are provided a path that enables them to be compliant with all applicable regulations of both programs.

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