If you’re exposed to hazardous chemicals at work, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) will help you identify the hazards of those materials and how to use them safely. Your employer must also teach you about the protective measures when working with hazardous chemicals. When you have this important information, you’ll be able to take steps to protect yourself from the negative effects caused by accidental exposure.
Key Steps in Developing a Hazard Communication Program
1. Learn the Standard/Identify Responsible Staff: Obtain a copy of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard. Become familiar with its provisions. Make sure that someone has primary responsibility for coordinating implementation. Identify staff for particular activities (e.g., training).
2. Prepare and Implement a Written Hazard Communication Program: Prepare a written plan to indicate how hazard communication will be addressed in your facility. Prepare a list or inventory of all hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
3. Ensure Containers are Labeled: Keep labels on shipped containers. Label workplace containers where required.
4. Maintain Safety Data Sheets: Maintain safety data sheets for each hazardous chemical in the workplace. Ensure that safety data sheets are readily accessible to employees.
5. Inform and Train Employees: Train employees on the hazardous chemicals in their work area before initial assignment, and when new hazards are introduced. Include the requirements of the standard, hazards of chemicals, appropriate protective measures, and where and how to obtain additional information.
6. Evaluate and Reassess Your Program: Review your hazard communication program periodically to make sure that it is still working and meeting its objectives. Revise your program as appropriate to address changed conditions in the workplace (e.g., new chemicals, new hazards, etc.).
Global Harmonization System (GHS)
The new HCS 2012 is now aligned with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) that provides many benefits, including:
- Providing a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets;
- Improving the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace;
- Helping reduce trade barriers;
- Productivity improvements for American businesses that regularly handle, store, and use classified hazardous chemicals;
- Providing cost savings for American businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for classified chemicals. Historical note:
The old HCS 1994 gave workers the right to know, but the new HCS 2012 gives workers the right to understand: this is a very important change in OSHA’s approach.