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OSHA Shake-Up To Force Shop Training

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After nearly two decades of stagnancy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its hazard communication standards for businesses—a change that will require new training for all auto shop employees this year.

The new requirements will not be put into effect until 2016, as part of a four-step process over the next three years to get businesses up to speed. The first step requires all shops to complete employee training on the new standards by Dec. 1.

A lot has changed regarding the manufacturing, distribution and end-use of chemicals since OSHA last updated its hazard communications standards for workplace chemicals in 1994, says Brandon Thomas, chief operations officer and risk management strategist for GMG EnviroSafe, an organization that assists shops with governmental and regulatory compliance issues.

Some of the changes include the classification process for hazardous chemicals, and standardized words and pictograms on labels to define various families and risks of chemicals. All of this has resulted in new format, structure, language, and content areas of chemical manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (SDS)—formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

Thomas says 80 percent of the new SDS forms will include new information regarding ecology, disposal, transport and regulation issues of chemical hazards compared with the old MSDS forms. 

Shop Training

Thomas says the revised standards are an important regulatory change that affects every shop in the country. Failure to comply with the standards could result in fines of at least $500. Thomas outlines the minimum training, which can be done in-house at no cost, required for staff by the end of the year:

Label changes for chemical containers. OSHA has standardized the “danger” and “warning” words used on labels, as well as the design of pictograms that illustrate various personal and environmental hazards. In addition, OSHA now requires precautionary and personal protective equipment needs to be outlined on chemical labels.

Thomas says one chemical now could include up to four hazard warnings on the label under the new standards. Employees need to understand precautionary, storage and first-aid best practices for chemicals that have multiple warnings.

First-aid procedures. Employees must know how to quickly get necessary information to mitigate health and environmental risks in the event of a chemical accident, spill, leak, ingestion or exposure, Thomas says.

Format and content of SDS. OSHA’s new SDS format requires 16 standardized sections. Employees must know how the SDS is organized and what type of information is included within each section.

Relationship between chemical labels and SDS. Thomas says chemical labels aren’t able to provide all necessary information. Employees should be trained on how to cross-reference labels with the SDS if they have questions or need information.

“Keep a paper trail in your records that documents when the training occurred, who attended, what was discussed and who the instructor was,” Thomas says.

Designate a Manager

For shops to adequately prepare for the hazard communication conversion, Thomas suggests to designate a shop employee as the SDS “library manager.”
He says one specific person should be charged with the handling, managing and record-keeping of the new SDS forms for your facility due to the plethora you will receive. With hundreds of chemicals in use at your facility, and up to 10 pages of SDS information for each, “it will get out of control very quickly if you have several people overseeing it.”

Your SDS library manager does not require certification, Thomas says. They need the capacity to compare MSDS and SDS labels, communicate differences to staff, and keep all of the  information accessible.

For details on OSHA’s new standards, go to

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