By Spapa003 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Last month, the EPA issued several revisions to the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). The revisions are meant to bring the Act’s nomenclature in line with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (the US GHS law). Starting January 1st, 2018, all EPCRA tier I and II reports will have to match the revised standard.
What is the EPCRA?
The EPCRA was put into place in 1986 in order to prevent toxic chemical spills and other industrial disasters. The Act included several provisions, but sections 311 and 312 are the most pertinent to the recent revision. These sections require facilities to do the following:
Submit their MSDS inventory to state and local authorities (most especially the local fire department)
File a report for every hazardous substance they store on site (Tier I report).
Compile an inventory of all hazardous substances on site any time, with sub-totals by hazard classification (Tier II report).
The purpose of these reports is to keep emergency responders “in the loop” regarding all the hazardous chemicals on site. Key information has to be communicated in a clear and concise manner, in order to prevent delay or confusion. The more the fire department knows about the building they are about to enter, the better.
What’s Been Changed?
When the EPCRA was originally passed, it was intended to share a common nomenclature with OSHA’s HazCom. Most notably, the hazard classifications on the tier I & II reports were supposed to correspond one-to-one with HazCom’s classifications. This correspondence was broken when OSHA adopted GHS in 2012.
In order to correct this disconnect, the EPA has replaced EPCRA’s hazard categories with GHS hazard classifications.
This amendment will make EPCRA reports more comprehensible for first responders, and easier for facilities to compile.
What Has To Be Done?
If your facility has to submit reports under the EPCRA, you will have to take steps to adopt the revised standard. The final deadline for full compliance is still more than a year away (January 1st, 2018), but there are some things you should consider doing first.
If you haven’t already done so, familiarize yourself with the GHS hazard categories and GHS in general.
Starting on January 1st, 2017, begin recording the GHS hazards of your inventory, so that you’ll have the data you need to file on January 1st
The EPA will issue the new Tier I &II forms in 2017. Check their site periodically, and be sure to familiarize yourself with the form soon after it’s made available.
Updates will be applied to the EPA’s Tier2Submit app sometime before the deadline. You should take some time to learn the new system before you have to use it.
The new standard shouldn’t be difficult to switch to, provided you plan ahead. Just make sure you keep the change in mind next year, so that the deadline doesn’t catch you by surprise!