OSHA Launches Hazard Communication Initiative

OSHA has a message for employers: it's time to comply with the hazard communication standard (HCS).

The agency has launched a new initiative consisting of compliance assistance and enforcement - to focus attention on hazard communication in the workplace. The HCS, adopted 20 years ago, covers some 650,000 hazardous chemical products and more than 30 million American workers.

"Appropriate and accurate hazard communication is essential to safe chemical management programs in the workplace," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Employers need good information to design protective programs for their employees, and employees need the same information to protect themselves. This initiative will help improve that process."

Compliance assistance is a key component of the initiative. OSHA has developed a Hazard Communications page on the agency's Web site that contains compliance assistance materials, OSHA's review of the issues and draft documents for public comment. The materials include:

  • Hazard Determination Guidance to help chemical manufacturers and importers identify the right information, assess it and translate it into a proper hazard determination.
  • A Model Training Program to provide guidance for developing and conducting an employee training program, including a number of slides that employers can adapt to their workplaces.
  • Guidance for preparation of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) will be posted for comment after comment periods close for the first two documents. It will address accuracy and comprehensibility of MSDSs and will suggest sources of information and types of information to include.

As part of its education and outreach efforts, OSHA has formed an alliance with the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC), a professional society that focuses on hazard communication issues. OSHA and SCHC will produce several products aimed at improving hazard communcation, including:

  • A course for small businesses on preparation of MSDSs; Ddevelopment of a training program for OSHA compliance staff on review of MSDS information;
  • Development of a checklist to use to review MSDSs for the inclusion of certain information.

In addition, internationally developed and peer reviewed International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSCs), are available on OSHA's Web site to use as a screening tool for reviewing MSDSs. They cover more than 1,300 substances and are available in multiple languages.

For the enforcement component of this initiative, compliance officers will use sample hazard information on selected chemicals to check the accuracy of MSDSs. Deficiencies will be brought to the attention of the party responsible for supplying the MSDS, and failure to make corrections may result in the issuance of citations.

OSHA is also evaluating the adoption of the globally harmonized system of classification and labeling of chemicals (GHS), and preparing a guide to increase awareness of the GHS.

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