May 20, 2024

Genevieve Strand
Director, Government Relations

OSHA Releases Long-Awaited Updates to Hazard Communication Standard

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its final rule updating the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The HCS ensures chemical safety in the workplace by requiring manufacturers to provide information about hazardous chemicals through labels, safety data sheets, and training to employees. The final rule becomes effective July 19, 2024. 

This rulemaking has been ongoing since 2014, and SOCMA has worked to educate and lobby OSHA throughout the process for nearly a decade. SOCMA would like to thank member companies CJB IndustriesColonial ChemicalLBB Specialties, and Innovative Chemical Technologies for their engagement and advocacy throughout this rulemaking.  

SOCMA, alongside our members, successfully advocated for a number of positive changes, including beneficial flexibility for the labeling of small packages, bulk shipments, and chemicals already released for distribution. While there are some continuing challenges and complexities with the rule, SOCMA will hold an informational Town Hall to outline the next steps.

Next Steps:

The new rules will have financial and operational implications for specialty chemical manufacturers. All SOCMA members are encouraged to send a representative from their company to attend the Town Hall on June 4 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The Town Hall is the first step to understanding the rule’s scope and impact and preparing for its roll-out. SOCMA will also prepare compliance resources, including a guidance document.

Register Now

Below is SOCMA’s initial analysis of the final rule. Please share this email with the appropriate person in your company and have them contact SOCMA’s government relations team at for any questions regarding the final rule. 

Successful Advocacy:

Small Package Labeling 

  • The previous Hazard Communication Standard did not allow sufficient flexibility for small package labeling. 
    • Given the frequency with which member companies use small-capacity containers, SOCMA successfully advocated for a provision allowing companies to provide reduced information where it is not feasible to present the full required set of label information on certain small containers. 

Flexibility for Chemicals Already Released for Distribution 

  • SOCMA successfully educated OSHA on the significant concern among chemical manufacturers that employees at distributor warehouses would be required to break down existing packaging, put new labels on all of the containers, and then re-package the product—activities that can pose serious safety risks and that such employees are not qualified to conduct.
    • Under the final rule, manufacturers must only provide the updated label for each individual container with each shipment once the product reaches its customer. Warehousing operation employees do not have to open sealed pallets and boxes of containers to relabel them or repackage the product in preprinted bags. 

Labeling Provisions for Bulk Shipments 

  • SOCMA successfully argued the need for additional flexibility regarding the applicability of DOT and OSHA pictograms since DOT has updated its regulations to indicate that it does not consider the HCS pictogram to conflict or cause confusion with the DOT pictogram for the same identified hazard.
    • The final rule harmonizes labeling regulations between OSHA and DOT while simplifying the dual labeling requirements for regulated entities.  

Extended Compliance Dates for Chemical Substances/Mixtures 

  • In response to the difficulties experienced with the implementation of the current HCS, SOCMA recommended that OSHA extend the compliance dates, particularly for mixtures.
    • The final rule extends the compliance dates for chemical substances to January 19, 2026.
    • For substances, employers must update any alternative workplace labeling, update the hazard communication program, and provide any additional employee training no later than July 20, 2026.
    • The compliance date for mixtures is extended to July 19, 2027.
    • For mixtures, employers must update any alternative workplace labeling, update the hazard communication program, and provide any additional employee training no later than January 19, 2028.
    • The rule also specifies that between May 20, 2024, and the rule’s effective dates, chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers may comply with either this section or § 1910.1200 revised as of July 1, 2023, or both during the transition period. 

Continuing Challenges:

Hazard Classification 

  • In the draft rule, OSHA proposed to amend the “Hazard classification” section to require that manufacturers determine the hazard classifications for a substance or mixture under “normal conditions of use and foreseeable emergencies”. 
  • SOCMA raised concerns that manufacturers would be required to anticipate and be responsible for characterizing and warning about hazards presented by whatever chemicals or products their downstream customers may make with that product.
    • In the final rule, OSHA modified this requirement, specifying that a hazard classification must include hazards associated with the “chemical’s intrinsic properties,” including a change in the chemical’s physical form and chemical reaction products associated with known or reasonably anticipated uses or applications.
    • While this specification will reduce the burden on manufacturers, it is still unclear to what extent the rule would require manufacturers to anticipate downstream chemical uses. 

Potentially Trade Secret Compromising Concentration Ranges 

  • The current HCS allows a manufacturer to claim as confidential the exact percentage of a chemical in a mixture. Given the significant amount of research and development SOCMA members conduct and the highly specialized applications and markets for which their products are used, appropriate protection of chemical concentration information is of the utmost importance. 
    • The final rule will require manufacturers to disclose the concentration range in which the secret concentration falls, drawn from a specified list of narrow ranges currently used by Health Canada.
    • SOCMA unsuccessfully argued that these concentration ranges are sufficiently narrow that they may compromise the trade secrecy of a specialty chemical manufacturer’s formulation and discouraged OSHA from taking this approach as the disclosure of such information has serious commercial importance to specialty chemical manufacturers.  





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