New hazardous materials labeling mandate impacts propane marketers

October 15, 2015 By    

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is a comprehensive approach for the classification and labeling of chemicals.

Published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as the Hazardous Communication Standard in 2012 (HCS 2012), it established the regulations and timelines for the implementation of the new GHS standard. All employers and employees are affected by OSHA’s mandate.

The timetable for HCS 2012 compliance began Dec. 1, 2013, when the first deadline required all employees to be trained on the new GHS system, including the pictograms and their meaning. The second deadline was June 1, 2015, and required labeling of all products being shipped from a manufacturer to be labeled in accordance with the new standard. Going forward, the next deadline is Dec. 1, 2015, when all inventory that ships (from any location) must be labeled properly. Full compliance is required by June 1, 2016.

Per OSHA regulations, employers are responsible for informing employees of hazards that are present in the workplace. The LP gas industry creates specific situations where it may be unclear as to who is responsible for labeling a hazardous material or if GHS labeling is even required.

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Here are a few examples:

  • Stationary tanks – Labeling is required for stationary tanks, even if the gas company does not own them. OSHA states that employees must be aware of chemical hazards they are subjected to during the course of their regular duties. Tanks must be labeled according to HCS 2012 guidelines if employees, in the course of their job duties, will be working with or around stationary tanks for filling, repair or maintenance.
  • Catering trucks – Tanks that are affixed to catering and food trucks are clearly used in the course of regular job duties by employees who work in the truck. Ideally, the owner/operator of the truck would label any LP gas tanks that are used in the vehicle. However, this is one area that would be easy to overlook as it is often viewed as equipment with little thought in regards to what the tank contains. For this reason, it is in the best interest of the LP gas suppliers to label such tanks because their employees must also handle the tanks in the course of their job duties, leaving the LP gas suppliers at risk if the tanks are not properly labeled.
  • RVs or campers – LP gas tanks are personal property of the RV or camper owner. The owner is not required to ensure that the tank is labeled in accordance with OSHA. However, the employers of the people who must fill or service these tanks must ensure that their employees are aware of the hazards. Because of this, it is recommended that employers label smaller LP gas tank units, as well.

OSHA enforcement of these new regulations is expected to be stringent. Four hundred new OSHA inspectors were hired and fines doubled leading up to the initial June 1, 2015, deadline. If employers are unaware of the new regulations, they are still considered responsible for compliance.

OSHA has given inspectors the ability to use discretion and show leniency if employers can prove they have done their due diligence and have made a good-faith effort to comply by the June 1 deadline. To prove the effort has been made, OSHA requires documentation and a timeline for implementation and an expected full compliance date. This discretion is limited and not permanent, as OSHA will issue fines if a good-faith effort cannot be proven with documentation. OSHA will not accept that an employer was unaware of the changes as an excuse for noncompliance.

GHS is a more unified approach to classifying and labeling chemicals. It is important for all employees working in and around hazards understand not only what they are working with, but know how to respond if they or others come in contact with hazards during their course of work.

 

Tammy King leads the regulatory compliance at Label Solutions Inc. She is OSHA-, DOT- and FDA-compliance certified. With more than 10 years of experience, Tammy works with customers on a day-to-day basis to ensure their labels meet government regulations. Label Solutions Inc., located in Marshfield, Mo., is a supplier of cylinder labels to the compressed gas industry.

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