The Hazard Communication Standard, HAZCOM or HCS for short, is a set of regulations and standards regarding the classification of dangerous chemicals and how hazard information is communicated. While OSHA has had a Hazard Communication Standard since the early 1980s, the standard went through a major change when the standard was aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in 2012.
It is critical for worker safety and health that employers are effectively communicating hazard information about the chemicals being stored, manufactured, or worked with in the facility. The HAZCOM standard encompasses the following critical requirements:
- Written Hazard Communication Program: Employers must implement a hazard communication program that includes information on what chemicals are used in the facility and their classification, warning information, and detailed response plans. Additionally, OSHA now requires Safety Data Sheets (formally Material Safety Data Sheets) to be maintained and accessible for all employees.
- Labeling: Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals must provide a GHS-compliant label on shipped containers. Each label provides specific information: the name of the chemical or product identifier, an appropriate signal word, hazard pictogram(s), a hazard statement, and a precautionary statement.
- Training: The HAZCOM standard is only effective if workers are properly trained, simply having the right documents and labels will not suffice. Employers will need to provide training on how to read warning labels, the information included in a Safety Data Sheet, and how to respond in case of a spill.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard has consistently ranked as the second most cited violation for the past five years in a row, and they take HAZCOM compliance very seriously. If a company is found to be violating the standard, they may face financial fines, more frequent OSHA inspections, and unexpected work disruption. However, OSHA does offer resources and direct assistance to help businesses become compliant. Employers will need to familiarize themselves with what their obligations are and make the effort to be compliant to ensure worker’s safety