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What You Need to Know About Hazard Communication

Toby Graham /

No one knows exactly how many chemicals are present in American workplaces–but the estimates are staggering. The total number of chemical substances that have been registered in the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry reached 263 million in 2022. So perhaps it’s no surprise that hazard communication tops the list of most-cited OSHA violations.

And that’s tough on businesses. Sliding out of OHSA’s good graces costs companies millions annually, between fines, legal fees, and internal time and effort. The good news is most of these citations (and the related risk to workers) are avoidable.

OSHA’s standard 29 CFR 1910.1200 details the chemical information that employers need to communicate to employees. By following the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), you’ll be able to rest easy about workers’ safety and be positioned to pass OHSA inspections with flying colors.

While chemicals have utility in the workplace, they can cause harm in the form of health hazards (e.g., carcinogenicity and sensitization), and physical hazards (e.g., flammability and reactivity properties).

To protect employees and reduce the occurrence of illnesses and injuries, employers need information about the dangers of the chemicals they use and recommended protective measures.

Workers have both a right and a need to know this information so they can take steps to protect themselves when necessary.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be diving into the requirements of the Hazard Communications Standard (HCS) for all employers using hazardous chemicals. But before we dive in, here’s an overview:

Hazard Communication in 6 Simple Steps

1. Learn the Standard and Identify Program Manager

  • Obtain the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and become familiar with it.
  • Ensure that someone has primary responsibility of coordination and implementation (Program Manager).
  • Identify personnel to complete activities (e.g. training).

2. Prepare and Implement the 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 all Containers are Labeled

  • Keep labels on shipping containers.
  • Label secondary 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

  • Train employees on the hazardous chemicals in their work area before initial assignment, and when new hazards are introduced.
  • Include the standard requirements, hazard of chemicals, appropriate protective measures and when and how to obtain additional information.

6. Evaluate and Reassess 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.

How KPA Helps Strengthen Your Hazard Communication Program

KPA is here to help you maintain a comprehensive Hazard Communication program.

HazCom Written Program

KPA’s expert EHS consultants will help you develop a written program that is tailored to your business. It will include everything OSHA looks for including:

  • A list of all the chemicals present in your workplace
  • How and where employees can access Safety Data Sheets
  • Identify the individual designated as responsible for the oversight of your program

Hazard Communication Awareness Training

KPA also provides online and on-site Hazard Communication training. Courses for both employees and managers cover how information about hazardous materials is communicated in the workplace. They also include information about how to read hazard labels and safety data sheets as well as the importance of the written program and training.

SDS Management

Ensuring your employees have quick and easy access to Safety Data Sheets may be the most important component of your Hazard Communication program. With KPA EHS you have access to a database of over 70 million datasheets. You can create your own SDS folders and custom SDS library with an easy to search interface. You’ll also have offline access and hardcopies to ensure all your staff can easily find SDSs. Finally, you can print pre-populated secondary container labels for GHS compliance.

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