hazard communication

A review of the Hazard Communication Standard

A review of the Hazard Communication Standard

hazard communicationThe purpose of a Hazard Communication Program is to help employees understand the potential hazards of the chemicals in use at their worksite. This education, required by the Occupational Safety & Health Act, is also called Workers’ Right To Know. Failure to meet all the requirements of the law is OSHA’s most frequently cited violation. One of the reasons for this is, many employers, supervisors and workers think chemicals are just too complex to explain and to understand. As a result, there is a temptation to avoid the subject.

Hazard Communication is very important, however, because it can protect employees from dangers that may be present when chemicals are being used. One very important key to a Hazard Communication Program is the Safety Data Sheet. These sheets tell you “everything you need to know” about a specific chemical. If you read the SDS you will be able to determine:

  • The HEALTH HAZARDS associated with any chemical you are using or are exposed to;
  • How FLAMMABLE the product is, and at what temperature it may ignite;
  • The REACTIVITY of the chemical with water or other agents; will it explode, etc.?
  • What PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) is needed to work with the product.

Every employee should be able to answer, and should remember, the following questions:

  • Where are the  SDS’s kept for the chemicals I am exposed to?
  • What kinds of hazards do I face when I use-or misuse–this chemical?
  • Do I understand the emergency procedures to follow in the event of a spill?
  • Have I inspected my personal protective equipment to be sure that it will protect me properly when and if I need to use it?

A convenient tool for reviewing the hazards and control of chemicals in your operation is an SDS Information Review form. Critical information can be transferred to this form and most people find it more “user-friendly” than the full Safety Data Sheet. The complete SDS can be reviewed when more specific details are needed, and should always be available.

Chemistry is a complex subject, and it’s hard to understand everything about the dozens-sometimes hundreds-of chemicals being used at work. Maybe the best way to accomplish this is to recall the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “One bite at a time!”

If one or two SDS’s are reviewed at regular safety meetings, using an SDS Information Review form, everyone will soon better understand the chemicals they work with and know how to protect themselves from injury or illness.