Contracting companies who manufacture, transport, distribute and/or use hazardous chemicals have a responsibility to inform and protect their workers. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard officially establishes a worker’s right to know about the chemicals they may be exposed to in the workplace.
What is OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard?
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requires that all employers develop and disseminate information about the identities and dangers of chemicals in an understandable way, including:
- Creating labels
- Distributing safety data sheets
- Providing appropriate training
This OSHA standard was created to ensure that information about chemical hazards and associated protective measures are made available to workers. It gives workers the right-to-know about the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to at work. Then, employees can take necessary steps to protect themselves.
Hazard communication programs also give employers the information they need to design and implement a protective program for employees who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals. This precaution is designed to reduce chemical source illnesses and injuries.
How to Comply with the Hazard Communication Standard
All employers who work with hazardous chemicals must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program, ensure that all containers are labeled and employees are provided access to safety data sheets and conduct an effective training program.
OSHA recommends employers hold a training forum that explains both the hazards of chemicals and how to use the information provided.
Employers can use these types of tools to train workers:
- Classroom instruction
- Interactive video
- Q&A session
OSHA specifies that Hazard Communication Standard training must be comprehensible to all employees. If your workers don’t speak English, then the training must be conducted in their native language.
Employees must be trained at the time they are assigned to work with a hazardous chemical in order to give them sufficient information prior to exposure. In order to comply, an employer must provide actual training sessions, not just hand out data sheets for workers to read.
Possible Health Effects of Chemical Exposure
Chemicals used in the workplace can expose employees to several health hazards, including:
And, physical hazards, like:
Employer Costs of Non-Compliance
Although it is fairly straightforward to follow, hazard communication is one of the more frequently violated OSHA standards. Failure to follow this rule can be costly to employers, because it can result in fines, increased risk and liability, lost revenue and work disruption. However, these repercussions can be easily avoided if your contracting company creates a proactive safety plan.