GHS Labeling Gets Cleared Up
The December deadline for the first wave of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) implementation has come and gone, but the confusion still resonates among many in the industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has tried to make the transition as smooth as possible by providing the necessary information to comply with GHS standards, but like with anything new, adjustments needed to be made.
Much of the current confusion that has brought about this latest update has to do with labeling. To comply with GHS standards, OSHA revised its HCS to meet GHS rules regarding the labeling of hazardous chemicals. However those rules have been perceived by some to be a bit vague when it comes to certain labeling circumstances.
Specific questions were addressed in a letter to OSHA from ICC Chemicals out of Cincinnati, OH, to which OSHA responded with specific answers to their concerns –specifically GHS hazard pictogram concerns.
The following is a list of questions and answers that were obtained from OSHA’s response letter. The questions from the original letter sent to OSHA were included in the response letter. This letter was posted online by MSDSonline.com.
“We purchase preprinted labels that have three empty frames with red borders so that we may place appropriate pictograms on them when making our product-labels. We understand that OSHA does not allow a blank red frame on the final product label. If our product requires only one or two pictograms, may we simply black-out the unused frame(s)? Also, is it acceptable to add “See Adjacent Pictograms” within the blacked-out area of the label?
While OSHA is not opposed to the use of preprinted stock, the HCS 2012 does not allow the use of blank red frames on the labels. In 29 CFR 1910.1200, Appendix C, Allocation of Label Elements (Mandatory), C.2.3.1 states, “A square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol is not a pictogram and is not permitted to be on the label.” The black-out option you suggested, however, is compliant with the requirements of the HCS 2012 because it is not a square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol.
What does it mean to you?
Many industry retailers sell preprinted GHS labels with one, two, three and four red squares set at a point for convenience for those with an in-house label maker. This added clarification would allow you to use your labels that may have too many red squares for the product you’re trying to label, and simply black-out the unused squares. This could turn out to be a nice cost-saving measure for those who have already purchased several preprinted labels with three and four red squares.
Are pictogram “stickers” or sets of two or more pictograms printed on strips of paper with adhesive backing adequate to meet the requirements of Appendix C to 29 CFR 1910.1200?
Yes. Appendix C to the HCS 2012, requires pictograms to be on the label. Section C.2.3.1 requires the pictogram to be “sufficiently wide to be clearly visible.” Thus, as long as the pictogram stickers are on the label and sufficiently wide to be clearly visible, they are acceptable.
Since the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has no pictogram requirement under 49 CFR 172.402, how should we interpret the statement from section C.2.3.3, “Where a pictogram is required by the Department of Transportation under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations appears on a shipped container, the pictogram specified in C.4 for the same hazard shall not appear?”
The HCS 2012 defines pictogram under section 1910.1200(c) as “a composition that may include a symbol plus other graphic elements, such as a border, background pattern, or color, that is intended to convey specific information about the hazards of a chemical.” The DOT requires diamond-shaped labels containing hazard symbols for the transport of chemicals. Therefore, because DOT labels contain symbols, they are considered pictograms under HCS 2012.
Accordingly, under Appendix C.2.3.3, in cases where a shipped container already has a DOT label, the HCS pictogram for the same hazard need not appear on the label. For example, to indicate that a shipped container contains an oxidizer, a DOT label must have a pictogram, graphic or symbol of a flame over a circle, per 49 CFR 172, Subpart E. The HCS 2012 label already provides the symbol.
This may or may not resolve all of your GHS labeling requirements. If you still have concerns regarding your GHS changeover, you can seek answers on OSHA’s website or call the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100 to speak with someone directly.