MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
It will be more than a year and a half before manufacturers have to bring their labeling and documentation of hazardous chemicals in line with international standards, but employees who handle those chemicals, and their supervisors, have little more than a month to update their training for the new labeling system.
The Globally Harmonized System, which standardizes hazard communication throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, was created by the United Nations more than 20 years ago and formally adopted a decade later. However, different countries have set different timetables for implementing the standards.
“It’s been in the making for a very long time,” said Felicia Beaulieu, occupational safety and health specialist with Quantico’s Safety Division.
Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set a deadline of Dec. 1, 2013 for employees and supervisors to be trained on the new labeling system and safety data sheet format.
The system specifies a set of nine pictograms used to communicate hazards on chemical labels. It also establishes a consistent format for safety data sheets, formerly known as material safety data sheets, which are shipped with the chemicals. The new sheets will all have the same 16 sections. For example, the eighth section will always cover personal protective equipment.
“So it will be easier to understand what you’re dealing with when it comes to chemical hazards,” Beaulieu said.
All supervisors are to update their training by Dec. 1, as are all employees who work with chemicals. Beaulieu said anyone who was required to take initial hazard communication training is also required to update their training.
As of Oct. 16, a training update is available on the base website, at www.quantico.usmc.mil/qtma. There, users can find the new information and take a five-question quiz, a process Beaulieu said should take no more than 30 to 45 minutes.
“I’ll know who’s been in there and who hasn’t,” she said, adding that she’ll get an update whenever a base employee passes the quiz.
Kurt Vimont, head of the Safety Division’s Training Branch, said supervisors and employees of tenant activities, too, can update their training through the base website. “We encourage anyone and everyone to take it,” he said.
Manufacturers in the U.S. have until June 1, 2015, to comply with the standards, and distributors can ship products labeled under the old system until Dec. 1 of that year.
Until then, Beaulieu said, both systems will likely be in use. “While that transition period is going on, we want to make sure our people aboard this base are up to date on the Globally Harmonized System,” she said.
June of 2015 is also a target date for full implementation in Europe and Canada. At least 67 countries around the world are in the process of adopting the new standards.
As of now, anyone who gets their initial hazard communication training through Marine Corps Base Quantico or through the online Enterprise Safety Applications Management System will be taught the new standards for labeling and safety data sheets.
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