OSHA Revises Hazard Communication Standard

OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. Once implemented, the revised standard will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals.

Major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard

Employers are required to train workers by December 1, 2013 on the new labels, hazard classifications and safety data sheets format as indicated below to facilitate recognition and understanding.

  • Labels:  Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a pictogram, harmonized signal word, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category.  Precautionary statements must also be provided.

  Pictogram:  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. Each pictogram consists of a different symbol on a white background within a red square frame set on a point (i.e. a red diamond). There are nine pictograms under the GHS. However, only eight pictograms are required under the HCS.

  Signal words:  a single word used to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. The signal words used are "danger" and "warning." "Danger" is used for the more severe hazards, while "warning" is used for less severe hazards.  

  Hazard Statement:  a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard.   

  Precautionary Statement:  a phrase that describes recommended measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical or improper storage or handling of a hazardous chemical.  

  • Hazard classification:  Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria will help to ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate as a result.

  • Safety Data Sheets:  Will now have a specified 16-section format.

For more information on the revised Hazcom Standard, including labeling, pictograms, safety data sheets and a list of frequently asked questions visit: