In the 1980s, OSHA adopted the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to protect workers from chemical hazards. The purpose of this standard is to ensure appropriate labeling is present and communication is relayed to workers regarding any chemical hazards they may be exposed to in the workplace. OSHA states that with the updated system including classifications and labeling, employees now not only have the right to know about these possible dangers, but they also have the right to understand:
“The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. This update will also help reduce trade barriers and result in productivity improvements for American businesses that regularly handle, store, and use hazardous chemicals while providing cost savings for American businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered under the hazard communication standard.”
This means that workers need training, guidance, and thorough explanations about identities and hazards of the chemicals to ensure they understand fully what they are dealing with. OSHA’s HCS requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the possible hazards for their produced or imported chemicals and labels them accordingly for the customers. It also requires employers to have labels and safety data sheets for their workers that are exposed to any chemicals and ensure they’re trained appropriately.
Employers should provide specifics regarding health hazards as well as classifications of hazards. Labels must be provided that include signal words, pictures, and statements for hazard classes or categories. These labels are also required to have precautionary statements. Further, OSHA’s standard requires a specific 16-section safety data sheet for these chemicals in addition to the in-depth training in order to “facilitate recognition and understanding.”
Employees Have a Role
Although training, labeling, and relaying information are up to the employer, employees still play a role in safety around the workplace. Employees are expected to adhere to the policies and requirements of the standard and must attend and participate in necessary training sessions. Employees must take these hazards seriously and keep open communication with their safety management team. If employees aren’t understanding particular hazards in a training session, they must speak up and get further clarification. And, if employees notice problems with the chemical labeling or storage, they must also address that with their safety management team. (This includes any safety hazard, not just chemicals.) An employer provides the information and the safest space for their employees, but employees must return that practice with understanding what’s required and implementing the safety measures.
When dealing with exposures to chemicals or any other potentially hazardous situation, proper training is a must. For the best training in Utah, contact Shield-Safety. We are up to date on all OSHA requirements, and we are passionate about building a safe workforce no matter the industry or practice.