ILMA Seeks Clarity on Label Regs


A lubricants association asked OSHA last week to state that end users wont be cited for noncompliance to Hazard Communication Standards if suppliers have not provided labels and data sheets required by June 1.

The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association warns that if end users such as automakers are exposed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations penalties, they are likely to reject shipments, source products elsewhere, and hold vendors accountable for noncompliance fines.

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HCS requires all U.S. chemical manufacturers and importers to furnish new labeling and safety data sheets consistent with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) by June 1. Companies using or handling such materials must have them properly labeled and have proper documentation on-hand at all times.

Lube companies represent a significant portion of the new rules pool of applicable chemical handlers, which can be penalized for failure to comply. ILMA pointed out that OSHA estimated that of all new SDSs to be authored by June 1, 40 percent – representing over 300 companies in the U.S. – will come from the lubricants industry, making up for around 20 percent of overall compliance costs.

The one-size-fits-all compliance deadline for everyone in the supply chain is creating an enormous number of complications and problems, ILMAs legal counsel Jeffery Leiter, of Leiter & Cramer PLLC, told the Petroleum Packaging Councils spring meeting in Tucson, Ariz., last week.

In lieu of an extension to the deadline – which OSHA has said is just not possible – ILMA and several other national trade groups have called for relief in the form of amendments to OSHAs final enforcement procedure.

Last November, ILMA sought clarification on the responsibility of formulators and importers who dont receive the necessary data from raw materials suppliers by deadline. In its Feb. 9 response, OSHA said these companies would need to prove that they have performed their due diligence and made good-faith efforts to obtain the required information.

Ways to prove these efforts, OSHA said, are to begin sourcing from alternate suppliers that can readily supply the necessary information, for companies to conduct their own search for information – gathering data from chemical registries, for example – or to provide a timeline for when they will be able to furnish the information.

ILMA wants the same rules extended to end users farther downstream. The problem, Leiter said, is that the new guidelines address players in the middle of the supply chain – manufactures and importers and mixture product formulators – that are depending on upstream classification information to prepare safety data sheets and labels for their end user customers, but didnt say anything about the end user customer whos still waiting on that information, even though theyre still subject to the same June 1 deadline. Distributors, however, have a Dec. 1 deadline, Leiter reminded the meeting.

In addition, switching suppliers is not an easy solution, Leiter said, especially for original equipment manufacturers that have lengthy and complicated approval processes.

In its March 19 letter, ILMA proposed that OSHA rewrite the HCS guidelines with specific attention to end users, as follows: CSHOs shall not cite an end user employer for failure to have [HCS-complaint] SDSs and container labels available in its facilities if the employer exercised good faith and reasonable diligence in attempting to obtain the SDSs and labels from its suppliers.

ILMA surveyed its members to gauge HCS compliance thus far. The 30 percent of lubricant manufacturers that responded had received an average of 37 percent of the SDSs they needed from upstream raw material suppliers and had converted an average of 34 percent of their product lines data into compliant safety data sheets and labels. ILMA said its members – many of which are small businesses – have struggled with the costs of compliance, with several having spent over $99,000 on compliance efforts thus far and a few spending over $200,000.

Other than this particular memo, OSHA hasnt even figured out itself how to go about enforcing what its had on the books now for the past three years, Leiter concluded. Still, although ILMA and others are not yet giving up, Leiter said that at this point, the prospect for legislative remedy is highly unlikely.

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