Although the OSHA hazard communication standard CFR 1910.1200 dates back to 1983, it is still one of the most frequently cited standards, with 1,947 citations in 2021. The reason for the citations is that many employers often fall short of Hazard Communication (HazCom) training.
There are five elements of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard: Chemical Inventory, Written Program, Labels, Material Safety Data Sheets, and Training.
To correctly follow the standard, it is up to the employers to provide training to those workers who encounter hazardous chemicals during normal operations or in the case of an emergency. Training should be held when a new chemical hazard enters the workplace. For example, a company that handles and works with irritant chemicals would need to host a training if a flammable chemical is brought into the workplace, as that is a new hazard.
To be proficient in Hazard Communication, first, you want to make sure that a written HazCom program is in place and covers all facets of your organization. Ensure that the uses of chemical labels, safety data sheets, and any employee information and training are documented. All employees must be educated on how to understand and read labels and where to access information in the workplace. Training also needs to include how to identify and detect the presence of hazardous chemicals in the work areas.
Another step to being proficient in reviewing and updating your HazCom safety program at least twice a year. Involving a third party to audit your company’s training is a good way to ensure that there are no gaps in training and review the overall safety program.
HazCom training is not a one size fits all case and should be reviewed on a company-specific basis. Training reinforcement is effective for employees since class only based instruction is often not remembered.
There are some ideas that you can implement today to improve your safety culture:
- Check-in. Use informal conversations to see if employees are familiar with the chemicals in house and where the correct PPE is located?
- Test their knowledge. Can they retrieve safety data sheets and properly identify labels?
- Communicate. Whether it’s using visual posters in the break room or sending notices out in emails, the best way to improve awareness is to maintain an open line of communication. Advising and communicating chemicals coming into the company and what hazards they cause will keep everyone safe.