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Is It Time to Review Your Hazardous Communications Policy?

By Darcy Cook, CSHO, SHS, PTA

We are exposed to poisons and potentially hazardous chemicals both at work and at home, sometimes without even realizing any danger exists at all. Recognizing and understanding these hazards is the best way to keep yourself, your family, and your employees safe.

The good news is there are many steps you can take to work safely around potentially hazardous chemicals to prevent an exposure. The OSHA.gov website can provide you with the resources to build an effective Hazardous Communication and Chemicals Program.

Hazard Communication, also referred to as HazCom, is based on a simple concept that employees have both a need and a right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to while working.

Hazard Communication Standard

In order 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 Hazard Communication Standard (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

This process began in 2012 and as of June 1, 2016, all companies must comply with the GHS. The final rule and regulations can be reviewed at OSHA.gov.

  • 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 by December 1, 2023 on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.

While the new updates to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) have been in place for some time now, it’s important to ensure employees are up-to-date and receive regular training regarding potentially hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

For information on the most frequently asked questions, go to this page.

Darcy Cook is President of Safety Trainers, a division of Cook Professional Resources, Inc. (Worcester, MA). She can be reached at (508) 799-2857 or at [email protected] or www.safetytrainers.com.

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