Although the expanded hazard communication standard is in effect for all industries except construction, Utah Occupational Health and Safety Division officials won't strictly enforce the standard until Dec. 1.
Doug McVey, division administrator, said the state administers OSHA standards in Utah, and the expanded rules on hazard communication went into effect June 1. However, because there was a lawsuit over the standard, federal officials backed off from compliance and state officials followed their lead.Chemical manufacturing companies already had been covered by the hazard communication rules, but OSHA proposed to expand the rule to cover all industries where hazardous chemical are handled.
The projected enforcement of the rule was challenged in court by two contractor groups, and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a stay of the rule. On July 8, the U.S. Department of Labor obtained a clarification that the stay applied only to "construction employers in the non-manufacturing sector."
Because of the lawsuit, Utah officials delayed any enforcement of the standards and agreed that any strict enforcement wouldn't occur until Dec. 1, but McVey said if his inspectors see a flagrant violation of the rules there will be enforcement.
The new standard requires non-manufacturing employers to establish hazard communication programs to transmit information to their employees by means of labels on containers, material safety data sheets and training programs.
It also requires chemical manufacturers or importers to assess the hazards of chemicals they produce or import and send a material safety data sheet with chemical shipments so the information can be passed on to the employees.
Although implementation of the standards will cost employers millions of dollars initially, OSHA officials believe that if the rules are followed there will be fewer injuries, fewer workmen's compensation payments and increased morale because employees know their employers care enough to inform them about the hazardous chemicals they handle.