May 11, 2023 / Roger Marks

OSHA’s HazCom Standard and the GHS Seventh Edition

Sponsored by Lion Technology Inc.

This year, OSHA is updating the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS, 29 CFR 1910.1200) for employers and chemical industry stakeholders to align it with the seventh revised edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The rulemaking OSHA proposed addresses a few areas of uncertainty and confusion for stakeholders, including:

  • labeling of small chemical containers
  • labels on bulk chemical shipments
  • relabeling containers that have been "released for shipment"

The rule also adds a new hazard class and three new hazard categories and touches on requirements for trade secrets on Safety Data Sheets. According to the agency's most recent regulatory agenda, OSHA expects to publish the final rule very soon. As of this writing, the final rule has not been published. Visit for more details about what OSHA has planned and the latest updates.

Labels on Small Containers

The proposed update will codify existing agency interpretations concerning labels on containers that are too small to fit a full GHS-style label. Because the GHS hazard labels contain more information and detail than was required before OSHA first adopted these criteria in 2012, some shippers and employers struggled to fit labels on very small containers. The forthcoming final rule will provide some flexibility by allowing reduced information to appear on labels in some situations.

GHS Labels on Bulk Chemical Shipments

For bulk shipments, OSHA would allow for labels to be placed on the immediate container (as is currently required) or transmitted with shipping papers or bills of lading or electronically, provided that the label is available to workers in printed form at the receiving end of the shipment.

Updating Hazard Labels

When a chemical manufacturer, importer, distributor, or employer learns significant new information about the hazards of a chemical, the current HCS regulations require the container label to be updated within six months. Under the proposed HCS revisions, chemical containers that have been "released for shipment" and are awaiting distribution would not need to be relabeled. Manufacturers and importers would still be required to provide updated labels for all containers with each shipment.

HCS Hazard Classes and Categories

The proposed rule would add a new hazard class to the HCS for desensitized explosives and three new hazard categories: unstable gases, pyrophoric gases, and nonflammable aerosols. Another proposed addition would require the classification of each chemical to include "any hazards associated with a change in the chemical's physical form or resulting from a reaction [...] under normal conditions of use."

Trade Secrets on Safety Data Sheets

OSHA proposes two significant changes concerning trade secrets, or more specifically, how concentration ranges of chemicals are displayed on Safety Data Sheets. Stakeholders in the United States would use "prescribed concentration ranges" that provide some information while protecting trade proprietary data under the proposal.

Last, the proposed rule asked for comment from industry about whether OSHA should adopt a set schedule for updating the HCS in the future.

While OSHA is trying to align with the seventh edition, GHS continues to evolve. The "Purple Book," as GHS is known, entered its ninth edition in 2021, with a 10th likely to follow soon. In the meantime, stateside safety professionals should keep an eye out for new rules that affect the way they train and inform employees about chemical hazards in their workplace.


Lion Technology Inc.: "Small Containers a GHS Challenge for Chemical Industry" (February 2015).

OSHA: "OSHA's Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Hazard Communication Standard."

OSHA: Unified Agenda of Regulatory and De-regulatory Actions (Fall 2022).

Roger Marks

Roger Marks writes about workplace health and safety, hazardous materials, and environmental issues for Lion News, a weekly e-newsletter from leaders in regulatory compliance training at Lion Technology Inc.


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