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Businesses must comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard for educating and informing workers about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. This standard covers chemical labeling, safety data sheets (SDSs), hazard classification, and training. HazCom was updated in 2012 to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This means employers must follow new regulations for the information included on labels, the sections of safety data sheets, and more.
If your business needs assistance with HazCom, start by reading our free guide to HazCom labeling. Then take a look at the HazCom products below including industrial label printers for creating your own labels, custom HazCom labels, and educational materials for training employees and helping them follow HazCom requirements.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard includes many components of safe chemical handling. These components are all related, and employees must understand each part of HazCom for a business to be compliant with the HazCom standard. This means workers must understand chemical classification, safety data sheets (formerly known as material safety data sheets, or MSDS), and chemical hazard labels.
Because of the 2012 adoption of GHS by OSHA’s HazCom, some chemicals may have new hazard classes. At most businesses, employees will need to understand the different classes of hazards so they can take proper precautions when handling chemicals.
Chemicals can be:
Each of these groups has further subclasses, and a chemical will belong to at least one of these. For example, a chemical that belongs to the physical hazard group could be an explosive and a gas under pressure (both are subclasses in the physical hazard group). A chemical that belongs to the health hazard group could be a skin irritant and a carcinogen.
These are all serious hazards, and when people understand the hazards posed by chemicals, they can behave appropriately.
Under previous versions of HazCom, employees could consult MSDSs to learn details about a hazardous chemical. These sheets were replaced by SDSs in 2012. The new SDSs are quite similar to MSDSs, but they have a structured, 16-section format that makes it easier to find the information you’re looking for.
These 16 sections are: Identification, Hazard(s) Identification, Composition/Information on Ingredients, First-aid Measures, Fire-fighting Measures, Accidental Release Measures, Handling and Storage, Exposure Controls/Personal Protection, Physical and Chemical Properties, Stability and Reactivity, Toxicological Information, Ecological Information, Disposal Considerations, Transport Information, Regulatory Information, Other Information.
All chemicals shipped between businesses should have compliant HazCom labels on them, but businesses may also need to move chemicals to secondary containers within the workplace. When this is the case, it’s necessary to add hazard communication labels to these containers. Hazardous chemical labels have six mandatory parts:
The labels can be formatted by a business to fit the space/containers it’s working with, but these six pieces of information must be present on all labels.
HazCom labels can be ordered individually or printed in-house using an industrial label printer. When many labels are required, on-site labeling is often the best option.
All the above written components make up the foundation of a HazCom program, but in addition HazCom training must take place. The goal of incorporating GHS into HazCom was to standardize labels and documents to make it easier to understand chemical hazards, but if people aren’t educated about these new formats, the changes are not be nearly as effective. Plus, OSHA requires that employers train employees about HazCom.
To comply with OSHA, all employees should receive training about all parts of the company’s HazCom program and they should have access to SDSs and other documentation in the workplace.
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