The HCS (Hazard Communication Standard) provides a standardized approach to workplace hazard communications associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals.

OSHA proposed rules to amend the HCS to maintain conformity to the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) revision 7 (which is a more current version of the GHS than what’s incorporated into the existing HCS).

HCS was updated in 2012 to align with Revision 3 of the GHS, which provided changes to hazard classification, labels, safety data sheets, and information and training.

Although the GHS’s most current version is Revision 8, which was published in 2019, OSHA is aligning with the previous version of the GHS, which was published in 2017. The plan is to address issues identified during the implementation of HCS 2012.

This update will:

  • Provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets.
  • Reduce trade barriers and result in productivity improvements for American businesses that regularly handle, store, and use hazardous chemicals.
  • Provide cost savings for American businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered under the hazard communication standard.

Hazard Communication Standard

To ensure chemical safety in the workplace, information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers. OSHA’s HCS requires the development and dissemination of such information:

  • Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers.
  • All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.

Major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard

  • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
  • Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
  • Information and training: Employers are required to train workers on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.

For more information, visit the HCS webpages on

Published in the Federal Register on February 16, 2021.

Key Changes to HCS

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