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Hazard Communication

In order to ensure chemical safety in the workplace, information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers. OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires the development and dissemination of such information:

§  Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers;

§  All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.


29 CFR 1910.1200


OSHA’s HCS standard address the informational needs of employers and workers with regard to chemicals.  Employees have a right to know about any hazardous chemicals they may be exposed to in the course of their employment.  The purpose of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard is to help identify hazards of chemicals and to provide information to allow employees to handle chemicals safely.

 All workplaces where workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals must have a written hazard communication program that describes how the HazCom standard is implemented in that in that facility.

 The HCS includes a three-part approach to communicating information to downstream employers, as well as workers.

1.    Labeling containers of hazardous chemicals, which serves as an immediate warning of hazards.

2.    SDS’s, which are sources of detailed information on the hazardous chemical

3.    Training on the hazards.

 An effective hazard communication program can accomplished in six steps. 

1.    Learn the Standard/identify Responsible Staff

·         The provisions that apply to employers simply using chemicals in the workplace, rather than those that produce or import chemicals, are found in the following paragraphs:

(e)Written Hazard Communication Program;

(f) Labels and Other Forms of Warning;

(g)Safety Data Sheets; and

(h)Employee Information and Training

2.    Prepare and Implement a Written Hazard Communication Program

·         The program must describe how the employer will address the requirements of paragraphs (f) Labels and Other forms of Warning; (g) Safety Data Sheets; and (h) Employee Information and Training, in the workplace. A sample written program is provided at the bottom of this page.  

3.    Ensure Containers are Labeled

·         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.  The labels you receive on a shipped container must have the following information, located together:

                                        i.    Product identifier

                                        ii.    Signal word (“danger” or “warning”)

                                       iii.    Hazard statement(s) (Fatal if swallowed)

                                       iv.    Pictogram(s) (click to download HazCom Pictograms or Transport Pictograms)

                                        v.    Precautionary statement(s) (do not eat, drink, or smoke when using this product)

                                       vi.    Name, address, and phone number of the responsible party

4.    Maintain Safety Data Sheets

·         The SDS requirements in HazCom 2012 are based on an internationally agreed upon 16-section SDS. (Click  to download a breakdown of the sections included)

5.    Inform and Train Employees

·         HazCom 2012 requires employers to both provide certain information to employees and to train employees.  The standard requires employees to be informed of:

                                     i.    The general requirements of the Hazardous Communication Standard;

                                       ii.    Where hazardous chemicals are located in their work areas; and,

                                       iii.    What the workplace hazard communication program includes, and where and how they can access the program.

·         Training, on the other hand, is a more active process.  The training conducted to comply with HazCom 2012 must address the following:

o   Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area.

o   The physical, health, simple asphyxiation, combustible dust and pyrophoric gas hazards, as well as hazards not otherwise classified, of the chemicals in the work area;

o   The measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards, including specific procedures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals.

o   The details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer, including an explanation of the labels received on the shipped containers and the workplace labeling system used by their employer; the SDS, including the format of the SDS (where each type of information is located) and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information.

 6.    Evaluate and Reassess Your Program

·         The information in your written program must be accurate.  The list of hazardous chemicals required to be maintained as part of the written program will serve as an inventory.  As new SDS’s are received, there should be a process in place to review them and determine whether any handing procedures need to change to protect against the hazards of these chemicals.

To get you started, download this Sample Hazard Communication Program and customize it to fit your county.