Starting January 1, 2018, chemical manufacturers and importers to the US will be required to conform to the revised Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) Sections 311 and 312. The US EPA brought this about by changing the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in federal regulations. This brings evaluation of chemicals in US markets into line with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The EPCRA revisions include some changes to rules for hazardous chemicals, including the production of Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as MSDS) and their distribution to users, as well as changing the categories for grouping hazarding chemicals that determine reporting requirements for each chemical.
OSHA has also issued a final rule which will require each workplace of a certain size (250 workers or over for all industries, 20-249 workers for specific hazardous industries) to electronically report all worker fatalities, injuries, or work-related illness that require treatment in excess of first aid. Employers are already required to record work injuries and illness. The new regulation specifies annual reporting deadlines for submission of records. Fillable forms are available online and forms for hand-held devices will be completed soon. State regulation of workplace safety and health will be required to conform to the new federal rules. Some sections of the rule take effect on August 10, 2016, and the complete rule is effective January 1, 2017.
The intent of the new regulations is to make complete and accurate information available to both government agencies and academic or private research institutions so that hazards and dangerous trends can be identified, both nationally and in specific industries. The forms used for reporting do not require specific personal information and the data collected will be examined and personally identifying information removed. It is also thought that by reporting injuries the attention of management at each workplace will be focused on the safety record with a beneficial result that health and safety dangers will be reduced and perhaps eliminated.
Besides workplace health and safety, individual workers and prospective employees will receive the benefit of available information about safety in an industry or even at an individual workplace. Employers must meet a standard for notifying workers of their rights with regard to reporting injury or illness. The regulations specifically prohibit any retaliation for reporting injuries. Employers are not allowed to have any policy or practice that affects the employment, pay or benefits of employees who report injuries. Positive incentive plans for overall safety records of groups or workplaces are allowed. It is thought that besides benefits to workers, employers will benefit by lowering their costs and improving the morale of the workplace. OSHA will also be able to direct its assistance and enforcement resources to the industries or workplaces with the greatest hazards.
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