Many industries can present hazards for employees in the form of toxic chemicals. Employers and managers can mitigate this risk is by implementing an effective communication program. Employers that have hazardous chemicals in their workplaces are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200, to implement a hazard communication program.
OSHA requires that to remain compliant, the program must include labels on containers of hazardous chemicals, safety data sheets (SDSs) for hazardous chemicals, and training for workers.
By following these six steps outlined by OSHA, employers can implement an effective hazard communication program:
Step 1. Learn the OSHA Standard/Identify Responsible Staff
- Obtain a current copy of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.
- Become familiar with its provisions.
- Make sure that someone has primary responsibility for coordinating implementation.
- Identify staff for particular activities (e.g., training).
Step 2. Prepare and Implement a 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.
Step 3. Ensure Containers are Labeled
- Keep labels on shipped containers.
- Label workplace containers where required.
Step 4. Maintain Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
- Maintain safety data sheets for each hazardous chemical in the workplace.
- Ensure that safety data sheets are readily accessible to employees.
Step 5. Inform and Train Employees
- Train employees on the hazardous chemicals in their work area before initial assignment, and when new hazards are introduced.
- Include the requirements of the standard, hazards of chemicals, appropriate protective measures, and where and how to obtain additional information.
Step 6. Evaluate and Reassess Your 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.).
OSHA’s Hazard Communication webpage at www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom. You may obtain a copy of the Hazard Communication Standard on OSHA’s hazard communication webpage at www.osha.gov/ dsg/hazcom.