Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

OSHA updates its Hazard Communication Standard

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jun 17, 2024

Chemicals4Since the 1980s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has required most employers to protect their workers from workplace chemical hazards, and to train workers to protect themselves.  Most employers are subject to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS; 29 CFR 1910.1200), or to variants imposed by states delegated OSHA’s authority. Many of the present requirements were established by massive revisions adopted in March 2012, when OSHA recast HCS to align it with the United Nations-sponsored Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  OSHA’s 2012 revisions conformed the US to GHS Revision 3, which was issued internationally in 2002.  The most obvious change was the adoption of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to replace longstanding Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), but employers faced a series of deadlines during 2013-2016. 

On May 20, 2024, OSHA significantly updated HCS requirements for the first time since 2012, primarily to reflect GHS changes through Revision 7 (which was published in 2017). OSHA’s revisions take effect on July 19. The remainder of this note summarizes these changes, based on the affected subsections or appendices.

1910.1200(a) Purpose 

The only change is to update the reference to GHS from version 3 to 7. 

1910.1200(b) Scope and Application 

Expands the existing exclusion of certain particulates from HCS applicability. Changes the exemption for “Nuisance particulates where the chemical manufacturer or importer can establish that they do not pose any physical or health hazard covered under this section” to make the relevant hazard “physical or health hazard, or other hazards covered under this section.” The Federal Register preamble explains that OSHA intends the “other hazards covered under this section” is designed to ensure that potential “hazards not otherwise classified (HNOC)” – which are generally covered by HCS – are considered when considering a possible exclusion. 

1910.1200(c) Definitions 

OSHA has just made revisions, additions and deletions in its list of definitions: 

  • “Bulk shipment” where the transportation vehicle is the direct container (e.g., tanker truck) (new) 
  • “Combustible dust” which means “finely divided solid particulates of a substance or mixture that poses a flash-fire or explosion hazard on ignition when dispersed in air or other oxidizing media.” (new) 
  • “Exposure or exposed” is also expanded from physical or health hazard, by redefining the term to cover exposure “to any hazardous chemical.” (revised) 
  • “Gas” is defined, to include gases and materials with vapor pressures above specified levels at specified temperatures and pressures. (new) 
  • “Hazardous chemical” is revised by deleting “pyrophoric gas” from the list of determinants. This definition will now read “Hazardous chemical means any chemical which is classified as a physical hazard or a health hazard, a simple asphyxiant, combustible dust, or hazard not otherwise classified.” (revised) 
  • “Immediate outer package” is defined, to mean “the first package enclosing the container of hazardous chemical.” (new) 
  • “Liquid” is defined to include a substance or mixture with vapor pressure and/or melting point no higher than specified levels at specified temperatures and pressures. (new) 
  • “Physical hazard” is revised, adding “aerosols” and “desensitized explosive” as classes of hazards, and clarifying that oxidizers can be “gases, liquids, or solids.” The new definition also includes references to ASTM D 4359-90 (2019) (Standard Test Method for Determining Whether a Material Is a Liquid or a Solid) and the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road for guidance. (new) 
  • “Physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP)” is defined. (new) 
  • “Pyrophoric gas” definition is deleted 
  • “Released for shipment” is defined to mean “a chemical that has been packaged and labeled in the manner in which it will be distributed or sold.” (new) 
  • “Solid” is defined as a substance or mixture that does not meet the definitions of gas or liquid. (new) 

1910.1200(d) Hazard Classification 

HCS requires chemical manufacturers, importers and end users (i.e., most employers) to evaluate chemicals produced, imported or used in their workplaces. OSHA is adding this provision: 

“The hazard classification shall include any hazards associated with the chemical’s intrinsic properties including: 

(i) a change in the chemical’s physical form and; 

(ii) chemical reaction products associated with known or reasonably anticipated uses or applications.” 

Note that since this change applies to manufacturers, it clarifies their responsibility to consider their customers’ “reasonably anticipated uses or applications” – i.e., why customers buy their products. 

1910.1200(e) Written hazard communication program 

OSHA is correcting a type-o. 

1910.1200(f) Labels and other forms of warning 

OSHA is revising several labeling provisions 

  • A conforming change states that labels on shipped containers are not required to include hazards identified and classified in compliance with new 1910.1200(d)(ii) (regarding reaction products with known or reasonably anticipated uses or applications; see above) 
  • A clarifying change is made, requiring chemical distributors to meet basic labeling requirements 
  • Labels on bulk shipments must be on the immediate container or transmitted with shipping papers or bills of lading, or with the receiving entity’s agreement may be “transmitted by technological or electronic means so that it is immediately available to workers in printed form on the receiving end of shipment.” This clarifies HCS’ link to Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements for hazardous materials transportation.  
  • OSHA is clarifying that containers are not required to be relabeled when they are “released for shipment” but must be relabeled before shipping. This emphasizes regulated employers’ flexibility regarding the timing of necessary relabeling. 
  • If the label presents the pictogram required by the DOT, OSHA’s pictogram is not required. 
  • New requirements are adopted for small containers:
    • less than 100 ml – abbreviated label must include: product identifier; pictogram(s); signal word; manufacturer’s name and phone number; and statement that the full label information for the hazardous chemical is provided on the immediate outer package 
    • 3 ml or less, if abbreviated label would interfere with use – pictogram 
  • Immediate outer packaging must still meet HCS labeling requirements 

1910.1200(g) Safety data sheets 

No substantive changes, but note that other revisions may necessitate revisions. OSHA is making several editorial revisions. 

1910.1200(h) Employee information and training 

No substantive changes, but note that that other revisions may necessitate revisions. 

1910.1200(i) Trade secrets 

Requirements for trade secret claims will allow disclosure of constituent concentrations in specified ranges. 

1910.1200(j) Effective dates 

The revised HCS regulation is effective as of July 19, 2024, but compliance requirements are being phased in, with separate deadlines for individual hazardous substances compared with hazardous mixtures, as follows: 

- January 19, 2026 – comply with revised requirements for evaluating substances (by chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors) 

- July 20, 2026 – employers update workplace training and labeling programs regarding hazardous substances, including any alternative workplace labeling provisions 

- July 19, 2027 – comply with revised requirements for evaluating mixtures (by chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors) 

- January 19, 2028 – employers update workplace training and labeling programs regarding hazardous mixtures, including any alternative workplace labeling provisions 

1910.1200 Appendices  

OSHA is revising the technical appendices to HCS, which consist of the following: 

  • Appendix A – Health hazard criteria 
  • Appendix B – Physical hazard criteria 
  • Appendix C – Allocation of label elements 
  • Appendix D – Safety data sheets 

What happens next? 

As noted above, the revisions are effective July 19, 2024, and compliance deadlines for specified stretch from January 1, 2026 to January 1, 2028. OSHA intends these extended provisions to allow regulated entities time to make changes in evaluation practices, labeling and other documentation, and training. 

Self-evaluation checklist 

Does the organization have workplaces that are required to create HCS programs to protect employees from chemical hazards?  

If so, is the organization preparing to make required revisions to each of its programs no later than the applicable compliance deadline? 

Where can I go for more information? 

- 5/20/24 Federal Register

- Side-by-Side Comparison of HCS 2012 to HCS 2024 

About the Author

jon_f_elliottJon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 30 years. 

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at:

Tags: OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, workplace safety, Hazardous Waste, Hazard Communication, Hazardous Chemicals