Course 601 - Essentials of Occupational Safety and Health

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Hazard Communication

More than 30 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to one or more chemical hazards. There are an estimated 650,000 existing hazardous chemical products, and hundreds of new ones are being introduced annually. This poses a serious problem for exposed workers and their employers.

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) - 29 CFR 1910.1200 provides workers exposed to hazardous chemicals with the identities and hazards of those materials, as well as appropriate protective measures. When workers have such information, they are able to take steps to protect themselves from experiencing adverse effects from exposure.

Employees need to be familiar with OSHA's hazard communication standards to help save lives and avoid OSHA citations.

Look at OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited violations for 2019 by clicking on the image to the right.

Protection under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) includes all workers exposed to hazardous chemicals in all industrial sectors. This standard is based on a simple concept - that employees have both a need and a right to know the hazards and the identities of the chemicals they are exposed to when working. They also need to know what protective measures are available to prevent adverse effects from occurring.

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1. How many hazardous chemicals are estimated to exist in the workplace?

a. 30,000
b. 65,000
c. 650,000
d. 30,000,000

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The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS)

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The HCS and GHS work together.

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) have established uniform requirements to make sure the hazards of all chemicals imported into, produced, or used in U.S. workplaces are evaluated and that this hazard information is transmitted to affected employers and exposed employees.

The standard provides necessary hazard information to employees so they can participate in, and support, the protective measures in place at their workplaces.

The Hazard Communication Program (HAZCOM)

The purpose of the Hazard Communications Program is to make sure:

  • the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are classified, and
  • information about classified hazards is transmitted to employers and employees.

To do this, the employer can make sure the Hazard Communications Program is successful by:

  • developing and maintaining a written hazard communication program
  • listing hazardous chemicals present
  • labeling containers of chemicals in the workplace
  • labeling containers of chemicals being shipped to other workplaces
  • preparing and distributing SDSs to employees and downstream employers
  • developing and implementing employee training programs

The HCS 2012 applies to any chemical which is known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency.

2. Which of the following must be included in the written Hazard Communication Plan?

a. List of chemicals at the site
b. How to enforce safety
c. OSHA reporting procedures
d. Employee recognition

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Develop a written HAZCOM Plan.

The Written Plan

All workplaces where employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals must have a written plan which describes how the standard will be implemented in that facility. The only work operations which do not have to comply with the written plan requirements are laboratories and work operations where employees only handle chemicals in sealed containers.

The written plan must reflect what employees are doing in a particular workplace. For example, the written plan must include training, list the chemicals present at the site, indicate who is responsible for the various aspects of the program in that facility, and where written materials will be made available to employees.

The written plan must describe how the requirements for labels and other forms of warning, material safety data sheets, and employee information and training are going to be met in the facility.

Click here to review a sample written Hazardous Communication Plan

3. Employers must comply with HAZCOM written plan requirements in all of the following workplaces EXCEPT _____.

a. where only unclassified chemicals are handled and stored
b. where there are no history of chemical-related accidents
c. where hazardous chemicals are properly stored
d. where employees only handle chemicals in sealed containers

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HAZCOM applies to all chemicals known to be present.

Hazardous Chemicals

Hazard communication requirements apply to any chemical that is known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency. It's important to understand this criteria, so let's take a closer look at a couple of key concepts:

Known to be present. The phrase "known to be present" is important to understand. If a hazardous chemical is known to be present by the chemical manufacturer or the employer, it is covered by the standard.

Foreseeable emergency. A "foreseeable emergency" is any potential occurrence such as, but not limited to, equipment failure, rupture of containers, or failure of control equipment that could result in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous chemical into the workplace.

An employer may rely upon the hazard determination performed by the chemical manufacturer. Normally, the chemical manufacturer possesses knowledge of hazardous intermediates, by-products, and decomposition products that can be emitted from his chemical product. However, if the employer obtains information regarding the hazards from a source other than the manufacturer, the employer is responsible for including such information in his hazard communication program.

4. A foreseeable emergency is any potential occurrence that could result in _____.

a. an emergency that is expected and controllable
b. a planned event or uncontrolled spill
c. an uncontrolled release of a hazardous chemical into the workplace
d. workers being injured or killed

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Chemical Hazards

Worker spraying chemicals on grass

Chemicals directly or indirectly affect our lives and are essential to our food, our health, and our lifestyle. Having readily available information on the hazardous properties of chemicals, and recommended control measures, allows the chemicals to be managed safely.

Under the GHS, a hazardous chemical may be classified as a substance, product, mixture, preparation, or another term that represents a physical hazard or a health hazard.

Physical hazards. Physical hazards result in an injury of some kind and are classified as posing one of the following hazardous effects:

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  • explosive;
  • flammable (gases, aerosols, liquids, or solids);
  • oxidizer (liquid, solid or gas);
  • self-reactive; pyrophoric (liquid or solid);
  • self-heating; organic peroxide;
  • corrosive to metal;
  • gas under pressure; or
  • in contact with water emits flammable gas

Health Hazards. Health hazards result in illness of some kind and are classified as posing one of the following hazardous effects:

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  • acute toxicity (any route of exposure);
  • skin corrosion or irritation;
  • serious eye damage or eye irritation;
  • respiratory or skin sensitization;
  • germ cell mutagenicity;
  • carcinogenicity;
  • reproductive toxicity;
  • specific target organ toxicity (single or repeated exposure); or
  • aspiration hazard.

Employees may be exposed to chemicals during normal operations or in a foreseeable emergency. Even though an employer is not responsible for the manufacture of hazardous chemicals, the employer has the responsibility for transmitting information about hazardous chemicals to his or her employees.

Employees, such as office workers or bank tellers who encounter hazardous chemicals only in non-routine, isolated instances are not covered. For example, an office worker who occasionally changes the toner in a copying machine would not be covered by the standard. However, an employee who operates a copying machine as part of her/his work duties would be covered by the provisions of the HCS.

5. Which of the following may result in illness of some kind?

a. Physical hazards
b. Health hazards
c. Failure to use fall protection
d. Defective tools

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Forms of Hazardous Chemicals

Worker cutting concrete

You might think the chemicals which apply to the rule are those in liquid, gas, or particulate form. However, the standard's definition of "chemical" is much broader than that commonly used. According to the HCS, chemicals that apply may exist in one of many forms:

Dusts: Finely divided particles (Example - wood dust)

Fumes: Even smaller particles usually formed when solid metal is heated and vaporized, and then condenses as tiny particles

Fibers: Similar to dusts but are of elongated shape (Examples - asbestos and fiberglass)

Mists: Liquid droplets that have been sprayed into the atmosphere

Vapors: Gases formed when a liquid evaporates

Gases: Substances that are normally airborne at room temperature. A vapor is the gaseous phase of a substance which is a normally a liquid or solid at room temperature

Solids: Such as metal, treated wood, plastic

Liquids: The most common form in the workplace

Employees, such as office workers or bank tellers who encounter hazardous chemicals only in non-routine, isolated instances are not covered. For example, an office worker who occasionally changes the toner in a copying machine would not be covered by the standard. However, an employee who operates a copying machine as part of her/his work duties would be covered by the provisions of the HCS.

See the list of toxic and reactive highly hazardous chemicals in 1910.119, Appendix A.

6. Which of the following are usually formed when solid metal is heated and vaporized, and then condenses as tiny particles?

a. Solids
b. Fumes
c. Dusts
d. Particulates

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Safety Data Sheets

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Keep an SDS binder.

The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) provides comprehensive information for use in workplace chemical management. Employers and workers use the SDS as a source of information about hazards and to obtain advice on safety precautions. The SDS is product related and, usually, is not able to provide information that is specific for any given workplace where the product may be used. SDS information enables the employer to develop an active program of worker protection measures, including training, which is specific to the individual workplace and to consider any measures that may be necessary to protect the environment.

Chemical manufacturers and importers must obtain or develop a safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Employers must have a safety data sheet in the workplace for each hazardous chemical which they use.

Chemical manufacturers or importers preparing the safety data sheet must ensure that it is in English, and includes at least the following section numbers and headings, and associated information under each heading:

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  1. Identification;
  2. Hazard(s) identification;
  3. Composition/information on ingredients;
  4. First-aid measures;
  5. Fire-fighting measures;
  6. Accidental release measures;
  7. Handling and storage;
  8. Exposure controls/personal protection;
  9. Physical and chemical properties;
  10. Stability and reactivity;
  11. Toxicological information;
  12. Ecological information;
  13. Disposal considerations;
  14. Transport information; and
  15. Regulatory information.
  16. Other information, including date of preparation or last revision.

For more information, see Appendix D to 1910.1200--Safety Data Sheets:

7. Chemical manufacturers and importers must obtain or develop a safety data sheet for _____.

a. each hazardous chemical
b. classified chemicals
c. all chemicals
d. each toxic chemical

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Labeling Requirements

Commitment is time and money.
Sample label.
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Labeling is one of the three-part approaches to communicating information downstream. A label must be on the immediate container of every hazardous chemical. The label is an immediate type of warning since it is present in the work area, right on the actual container of a hazardous chemical. It is a snapshot of the hazards and protective information related to the chemical, and a summary of the more detailed information available on the SDS.

When you purchase a hazardous chemical from a supplier, you will receive a container that is labeled with the information required under the HCS. All shipped container labels are required to have pictograms, a signal word, hazard and precautionary statements, the product identifier, and supplier identification. A sample revised HCS label, identifying the required label elements, is shown to the right. Supplemental information can also be provided on the label as needed.

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Commitment is time and money.
Pictograms.
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Pictograms. A pictogram is a composition that may include a symbol plus other graphic elements, such as a border, background pattern, or color, that is intended to convey specific information about the hazards of a chemical. Eight pictograms are designated under this standard for application to a hazard category.

Signal Words. A signal word is a word used to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. The signal words used in the standard are "danger" and "warning." "Danger" is used for the more severe hazards, while "warning" is used for less severe hazards.

Hazard Statement. A hazard statement is a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard. Example: Fatal if swallowed.

Product Identifier. The product identifier is any chemical, common, or trade name or designation that the chemical manufacturer or importer chooses to use on the label. The term must also appear on the SDS.

Precautionary Statement. A precautionary statement is a phrase that describes recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical or improper storage or handling. Example: Do not eat, drink, or smoke when using this product.

Some employers use third-party workplace label systems, such as those that have numerical ratings to indicate the hazards (e.g., National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS)). These may be used in conjunction with the supplemental information on the label to ensure that workers have complete information, as long as the ratings are consistent with the hazard definitions in OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard.

8. "Fatal if swallowed" is an example of a _____.

a. signal word
b. hazard statement
c. pictogram
d. precautionary statement

Next Section

Hazard Communications Training

Commitment is time and money.
Training should cover categories of hazards or specific chemicals.

Employers must provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area:

  • at the time of their initial assignment,
  • whenever a new chemical hazard is introduced into their the work area, and
  • when employees change jobs which exposes them to new hazards.

Information and training may be designed to cover categories of hazards (e.g., flammability, carcinogenicity) or specific chemicals. Chemical-specific information must always be available through labels and SDSs.

While training is not required to be repeated on a regular basis, employers may want to consider doing that to be sure that workers remember what they have learned. It is also a good opportunity to review the hazard communication program and make sure that it is still working effectively.

The Hazard Communication training program should provide workers with the following information:

  • requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard;
  • operations in the work area where hazardous chemicals are present; and
  • location and availability of the written hazard communication program.

In addition to providing this information to workers, they must be trained on the following:

  • methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area;
  • mphysical and health hazards of the chemicals in the work area;
  • mmeasures workers can take to protect themselves from these hazards; and
  • details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer.

9. When must employers provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area?

a. When OSHA inspections are expected
b. At least annually in banks and office environments
c. At least once a quarter in high hazard industries
d. When a new chemical hazard is introduced into their work area

Check your Work

Click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. Any questions you missed will be listed below. To correct your answers, go back to the question, change your answer, and come back to this section and click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button again.

Video

Video

OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). For more safety videos, see the Safety Memos channel.

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