DEEP DIVE: January 2024 Likely Publication Date for U.S. OSHA's Revised HazCom Standard

You are here

October 13, 2023Sandy Smith, Senior Reporter, 3E News TeamBlog

(Editor’s Note: 3E is expanding news coverage to provide customers with insights into topics that enable a safer, more sustainable world by protecting people, safeguarding products, and helping businesses grow. Deep Dive articles, produced by reporters, feature interviews with subject matter experts and influencers as well as exclusive analysis provided by 3E researchers and consultants.) 

Insiders are predicting that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will publish its long-awaited update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in January 2024. OSHA is proposing that all of the revised provisions in the proposed HCS become effective in two years from publication of the final rule, with training being required in advance of the effective date so employers and employees will recognize and understand the new labels and safety data sheets as they are received.

OSHA originally incorporated the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) into the Hazard Communication Standard in 2012 in order to specify requirements for hazard classification and standardize label components and information on safety data sheets. However, GHS is a living document and has been updated multiple times since then.

OSHA’s current proposed rulemaking will harmonize the HCS to the seventh edition of the GHS, improve harmonization with international trading partners such as Canada, and codify a number of interpretative guidance policies that have been issued since the 2012 standard. The final rule was sent to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for review on 11 October 2023.

According to Terry Wells, Senior Manager, Regulatory Research for North America, 3E Co., OSHA is expected to incorporate the GHS seventh edition as well as adopt some elements from the GHS eighth edition, such as the hazard class “chemicals under pressure.” 

The updates also will address “some grey areas in the proposed rule, such as how to claim chemical ranges as ‘confidential,’” she added.

According to OSHA, the proposed updates will affect 115,758 firms, 152,427 establishments, and 1,510,780 employees and will result in “modest, non-quantifiable improvements in worker health and safety above those already achieved under the current HCS.” The agency has preliminarily determined that the update is not “economically significant,” because it is not likely to have an effect on the economy of $100 million or more in any one year.


OSHA has created a document that offers a redline version of the current HCS and the proposed standard. The most updates and changes appear to be in the Definitions, Hazard Classifications, and Labels sections of the proposed rule.

DEFINITIONS: This section defines many of the terms used in the proposed HCS. OSHA has updated and added some definitions, as well as the actual terms used, to be consistent with the GHS. 

HAZARD CLASSIFICATIONS:  The GHS has specific criteria for each health and physical hazard, along with detailed instructions for hazard evaluation and determinations as to whether mixtures of the substance are covered. OSHA has included the general provisions for hazard classification in paragraph (d) of the revised rule and updated the appendixes that address the criteria for each health or physical effect.
One of the most significant aspects of this section of the HCS is this: “A chemical manufacturer or importer of a mixture is responsible for the accuracy of the classification of the mixture even when relying on the classifications for individual ingredients received from the ingredient manufacturers or importers on the safety data sheets.”

LABELS: Under HCS, chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. In addition, precautionary statements must also be provided, as well as product identifier and supplier information. Appendix C indicates what specific information is to be provided for each hazard class and category once a chemical is classified. The proposed version of HCS includes specifications for small container labeling.
According to OSHA, “The proposal’s approach will both improve communication aspects of the label, and facilitate compliance by providing the specific information to be included based on the hazard classification.”

The GHS uses nine pictograms to convey health, physical, and environmental hazards. The proposed HCS requires eight of these pictograms, the exception being the environmental pictogram, since environmental hazards are not within OSHA’s jurisdiction.


The changes to HCS as it aligns with GHS that likely will most impact chemical manufacturers, importers, exporters, and users are those related to labeling and SDS.

Under the labeling section, the chemical manufacturer, importer, or distributor must ensure that each container of classified hazardous chemicals leaving the workplace is labeled, tagged, or marked with the following information: (i) Product identifier; (ii) Signal word; (iii) Hazard statement(s); (iv)

Pictogram(s); (v) Precautionary statement(s); (vi) Name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party; and (vii) Date chemical is released for shipment.

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, or employers who become newly aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical are required to revise the labels for the chemical within six months of becoming aware of the new information and ensure that labels on containers of hazardous chemicals shipped after that time contain the new information. 

The proposed version indicates that chemicals that have been released for shipment and are awaiting future distribution do not need to be relabeled. However, the chemical manufacturer or importer must provide the updated label for each individual container with each shipment. Another update is that the label for bulk shipments of hazardous chemicals may be on the immediate container or may be transmitted with the shipping papers, bills of lading, or other technological or electronic means so that it is immediately available to workers in printed form on the receiving end of shipment.

Based on Letters of Interpretation received by OSHA, changes related to SDS included in the proposed HCS include clarification of how chemical information is presented (e.g. hazard associated with change in chemical’s physical form under normal conditions of use); trade secrets information; and clarification on inclusion of PEL, TLV, or other exposure limits for individual ingredients or constituents in mixtures.

See OSHA’s page for the proposed rulemaking for further information and the specific language of the proposed standard.

About the author: Sandy Smith, Senior Reporter, 3E, is an award-winning newspaper reporter and business-to-business journalist who has spent 20+ years researching and writing about EHS, regulatory compliance and risk management and networking with EHS professionals. She is passionate about helping to build and maintain safe workplaces and promote workplace cultures that support EHS. She has presented at major conferences and has been interviewed about workplace safety and risk by The Wall Street Journal, CNN and USA Today.