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December 13, 2018

How to create an effective hazard communication program

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When you think of OSHA compliance, hazard communication (HazCom) may not be the first thing that comes to mind. That may be why it was the second most commonly cited OSHA violation in 2017. Employers don’t often prioritize HazCom, simply because they are not familiar with the standard or they are focused on more visible workplace hazards.

One big reason employers struggle is that the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard may feel like a moving target. In 2012, OSHA aligned its standard with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), and future updates are expected. OSHA has expressed its intention to update HazCom 2012 to align with the UN’s latest version of GHS, which is revised every two years.

“The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard is one of the most important occupational safety standards because it ensures chemical safety in the workplace,” says Joan Brown, an Industrial Hygienist at Pinnacol. “The standard provides employees with the right to know and understand the hazards associated with the chemicals they use, and how to work with them safely.”

Learning about and staying up to date on the latest standard will help employers when developing a HazCom program or updating an existing one.

“A HazCom program describes how your organization will meet the provisions for labeling, safety data sheets and employee training. The program should also include a list of all hazardous chemicals in the workplace, how the employer will inform employees of the hazards of non-routine tasks and the hazards associated with chemicals contained in unlabeled pipes in their work areas,” says Brown. “The program must also be available, upon request, to employees.”

According to OSHA, employers can implement an effective HazCom program by following these six steps:  

  1. Learn the standard/identify responsible staff
  2. Prepare and implement a written hazard communication program
  3. Ensure containers are labeled
  4. Maintain safety data sheets (SDSs)
  5. Inform and train employees
  6. Evaluate and reassess your program

Staying current is the name of the game. But you don’t have to do it on your own. We have several downloadable resources to give you a head start, and our safety consultants are always happy to talk about your unique situation. Reach out via our Safety On Call line at 303.361.4700 or email at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com during regular business hours.

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