How does OSHA define a hazardous chemical?

OSHA defines a hazardous chemical as “any chemical which is classified as a physical hazard or a health hazard, a simple asphyxiant, combustible dust, pyrophoric gas, or hazard not otherwise classified.” Furthermore, OSHA clarifies chemical hazards and toxic substances pose a wide range of health hazards (like irritation to the skin) and physical hazards (such as flammability or corrosion).

Arguably the most important OSHA regulation regarding hazardous chemicals in the workplace is OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard. This standard ensures necessary information about chemical and toxic substance hazards is readily available and related protective measures are effectively communicated with workers.

Employer Responsibilities

OSHA requires all employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace to have the following three components as part of their hazard communication program:

  • Labels: Since OSHA aligned with GHS standards in 2012, hazardous chemicals in a facility must have compliant GHS labels on its container(s). These GHS labels must also include a harmonized signal word, a hazard pictogram, a precautionary statement, and a hazard statement for each hazard class and category.
  • Safety data sheets: Required documentation detailing the chemical’s composition, safe handling instructions, associated protective measures, physical and health hazards, and more.
  • Training: Employers have the responsibility to train workers on the elements of GHS labels and safety data sheets.

In addition to adhering to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, employers are responsible for reducing employee exposure to toxic chemicals wherever feasible using engineering controls, work practice controls, and providing the appropriate PPE for workers.

It’s key that information about identities and hazards of the chemicals used in the workplace are both available and understandable for employees. One way facilities can ensure compliance is by having an industrial label printer on site. This allows you to print custom labels that meet GHS labels in just a matter of minutes.


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