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An Overview of OSHA's 2021 NPRM: Updating the HazCom Standard


An Overview of OSHA's 2021 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Updating the HazCom Standard

The landscapes of hazmat regulations, chemical classifications and employee HAZWOPER training are constantly changing. And American industry leaders can expect more changes soon! In February 2021, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finally published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the HazCom standard. OSHA's goal aligns with the most recent revision of the UN's GHS. 

  • We've been waiting for this updated HazCom Standard since 2018.
  • And while these rules are still in the proposal stage — by no means final — hazmat generators, chemical manufacturers, transportation and storage operations have a chance to get ahead of the curve. 

Today we'll take a high-level view of two considerable changes on the horizon for chemicals manufacturing / storage. As always, know the team at Wise Businessware is working to stay ahead of the curve. If your crew needs updated online compliance safety training resources once the rules are finalized, contact us.

Highlights of OSHA's 2021 NPRM: New Classifications for Aerosols and Desensitized Explosives

OSHA's latest NPRM proposes several significant changes to chemical classification of aerosols and explosives.

Aerosols: Expanding the Existing Flammable Aerosols hazard class: Adding Category 3

OSHA plans to follow UN guidance and expand the current Flammable Aerosols hazard class to include non-flammable aerosols.

  • Non-flammable aerosols will now be under a new Category 3, which doesn't require the flame pictogram on the packaging.
  • Flammable aerosols will remain Category 1 or 2 and still need the flame pictogram.
  • Ultimately, most flammable aerosols will be classified as both flammable aerosols and gases under pressure.

Schedule Consultation

Know that HazCom 2012 was based mostly on data provided by the transportation sector. So historically, most aerosols were classified as gases under pressure. But OSHA now believes this classification does not communicate the real hazards of aerosols because aerosol containers vary greatly and have different failure mechanisms from one to the next.

Ultimately, the proposed change will have a profound impact on the authoring of SDSs (formerly known as MSDSs) by aerosol manufacturers, transporters, wholesale warehousing, retail placement and may affect end-user storage as well. 

Next, we consider OSHA's suggested updates regarding a new class of physical hazards: desensitized explosives. 

Desensitized Explosives: OSHA Defines a New Physical Hazard Class

OSHA plans to add a new physical hazard class for desensitized explosives. The proposal states there will be four new categories (1,2,3 and 4) within the new hazard class.

For now, know that:

  • Desensitized explosives are treated to stabilize the chemical or reduce / suppress a chemical's explosive properties.
  • They can pose a physical hazard in the workplace, either as part of the everyday work process or during storage.
  • Therefore, OSHA states these hazards must be identified and communicated.

Currently, these chemicals are classified as explosives. They're stored with precautionary warnings to address the measures needed to keep a chemical stabilized, such as "keep wetted." Now, OSHA agrees with the UN, and says a separate hazard class is necessary to ensure the specific hazards associated with work and storage are plainly communicated to your crew.

Who is Affected by OSHA's 2021 NPRM? 

OSHA published a table in the NPRM that describes the major industries affected by the proposed changes. (See page 49 of NPRM.)

They are:

  • Oil and Gas Extraction
  • Petroleum & Coal Products
  • Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing
  • Chemical Manufacturing and all related subsectors
  • And Merchant Wholesalers, among others 

Like ripples on water after a pebble is tossed into a pond, it's easy to imagine change rippling outward for warehouse personnel, hazmat CDL drivers, and various other points on the "cradle to grave" scheme of hazardous waste that will undoubtedly be affected, too.

What Else is on OSHA's 2021 NPRM?

So far, we've addressed two significant changes to hazardous materials labeling that are on the horizon. But the NPRM covers more issues like:

  • New labeling provisions for hazardous material containers
  • New labeling requirements for containers "released to shipment."
  • Updated label requirements for bulk shipments of hazardous chemicals

And a proposed change to SDSs that will allow manufacturers to retain their trade secrets by keeping chemical percentages listed on SDSs confidential — in other words, manufacturers won't need to publish the exact recipe of hazardous chemicals on the label under the proposed rules.

Reduce Risk for a Safer Workplace

This is what it all comes down to. EHS software helps you stay proactive, identifying and correcting risks before they cause an accident. 

Take a closer look at our EHS software solutions

To learn more schedule a 20 minute introductory call consultation.

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Topics: Hazard Communication