OSHA Considering Costlier Standard for Paints, Chemicals
NAHB is questioning a change to the hazard communication standard for paints, solvents and other chemicals under consideration by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that, if enacted, would establish a new international standard that could be more costly to builders — without adding to worker safety.
While NAHB believes the international standard potentially could give employers and employees quicker access to necessary health and safety information, the association questions whether the changes would actually increase worker safety over the OSHA rules already governing hazard communication.
OSHA wants to use the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling Chemicals (GHS), created by an international body seeking more uniformity in the process.
NAHB believes the international standard possibly could be confusing to employers and employees and impose additional training-related compliance costs and procedures on builders and other small business owners.
In addition, NAHB questions whether using GHS would circumvent OSHA’s required method of hazard communication.
NAHB sent a letter to OSHA last week outlining these concerns.
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act “is very explicit about the hazard determination process,” the NAHB letter said. “The standard must protect workers, but it also must be feasible and it must be based on evidence, facts, research and experience.”
Under the OSH Act, OSHA is required to publish a determination in the Federal Register, accept public comments and then create the final rule.
GHS does not use the same process, the letter pointed out. “NAHB is concerned that OSHA will regard the GHS as fact or evidence, then tweak the existing OSHA regulations to conform to GHS. The opinions of an international body may interest OSHA or National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) staff, and they may stimulate research to shed light on whether OSHA should adopt such a standard as GHS has done, but they do not constitute evidence,” it said.
NAHB members currently rely on Material Safety Data Sheets from manufacturers and sellers to help them determine the hazards of adhesives, sealants, paints, lubricants and other chemicals common to the home building process. These data sheets meet OSHA requirements and are uniformly accepted and understood in the United States.
Using the GHS would “change the established scheme of data sheets and labels,” using unfamiliar pictograms “which may impair the safety of workers,” the letter said.
OSHA’s announcement does not claim that GHS will improve worker safety.
In an example OSHA provided to illustrate the new system, “the pictogram is the same for each category of carcinogenicity but uses different signal words (‘Danger’ vs. ‘Warning’) and different hazard statements (‘May Cause Cancer’ vs. ‘Suspected of Causing Cancer’). With this information, it is not clear what the difference in the hazard is and what action an employer or employee must take,” the letter pointed out.
“Procedures that work in other countries on other continents may not work well here because of cultural differences or differences in established work practices and habits . . . . OSHA has no authority to incorporate other countries’ standards by reference. There is no part of the law — at least OSHA cites none — that mandates OSHA to harmonize its regulations with those of other nations. OSHA’s mandate is ‘To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women,’ which is to be accomplished ‘by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act.’”
“Hazard communication compliance assistance and training materials should provide clear and concise guidance that will aid residential construction employers in providing effective Hazard Communication information to their employees [and] emphasize the most important information critical to protecting employees/workers from hazardous chemicals . . . in a manner that easily understandable and relevant,” the letter said. The new system, the letter concludes, does not fit the bill.
OSHA will gather responses and decide what modifications are necessary in the rule before proceeding.
Protect Your Workers and Your Profits
The “Jobsite Safety Video,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides an overview of the key safety issues residential builders and workers need to focus on to reduce accidents and injuries.
Based on the “NAHB-OSHA Jobsite Safety Handbook,” this DVD is intended to be used as part of an essential residential construction safety-training program and includes two 20-minute videos.
To view or purchase this DVD online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.