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Universal Language Goal of EPA EPCRA Update

With the dust settled on OSHA’s adoption of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) regulations, EPA has now incorporated the revised HCS language into its hazardous chemical reporting regulations.

The revisions affect the reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), specifically, hazardous chemical inventory form reporting (Section 312) and list reporting (Section 311). In conjunction with adopting OSHA’s new HCS classification system, EPA made a few minor corrections to the hazardous chemical reporting regulations (such as website address updates).

The revised regulations now refer to both MSDS—Material Safety Data Sheets, as well as SDS—or “Safety Data Sheets,” the updated OSHA term for documents that provide information on the properties of hazardous chemicals and how they affect health and safety in the workplace. The more substantial revision is that the five existing hazard categories used by EPA in EPCRA reporting are being replaced with specific GHS hazard classes as well as four hazards adopted by OSHA but not listed in the GHS.

EPA noted in the background section of the final rule that closer correlation with OSHA’s HCS and GHS will provide greater clarification to the regulated community and facilitate emergency planning. Prior to OSHA adopting the GHS, chemical producers were able to use whatever language or format they chose in providing necessary information, so different companies could use different language to describe the same hazards. Now, downstream users will find consistent signal words, pictograms and hazard statements in all communications.

The compliance date for using the new classifications is January 1, 2018.