For more than 20 years, the occupational safety and health
community has relied on skin notations from the National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to warn workers about
the health hazards of skin exposures to chemicals. These notations
have proved to be useful risk management tools for occupational
health professionals concerned about protecting workers from
injuries and illnesses caused by skin contact with chemicals.
However, according to the definition, a NIOSH skin notation may be
assigned to a chemical only if that substance has been
scientifically determined to be dermally absorbed. The current,
widespread practice of using a skin notation to indicate that a
substance poses other health effects, such as skin irritation,
following any kind of skin exposure is inaccurate and misleading.
The new strategy for assigning the NIOSH skin notations was
designed to preserve the conventional wisdom about them and also to
address the issues associated with their historic misuse-including
their assignment to nonsystemic effects. This system provides a
framework for assigning multiple skin notations that incorporates
the current scientific database on workplace chemicals and dermal
toxicity. The new system warns users about the direct, systemic,
and sensitizing effects of exposures of the skin to chemicals. The
labeling of a chemical with a hazard-specific skin notation (and in
some cases multiple notations) will greatly enhance the quality of
hazard communication and the associated risk management process.
The new strategy outlined in this CIB also corresponds with the
classification strategy adopted in the Globally Harmonized System
of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) developed by the
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