Monday, January 13, 2014
Hazardous Communication and Chemical Safety
Communicating adequately, professionally and responsibly about hazards in the workplace means chemical safety will be ensured. Without such communication, employees can be at risk.
The Hazard Communication Standard states that employers are required to form comprehensive hazard communication programs used to inform employees about chemical hazards.
How to do so? Through readable, understandable labels on containers, material safety data sheets, and through instructive training programs, in person and through online instruction programs such as those offered by Medtrainer.
Implementing hazard communication programs successfully means that all employees can fully take advantage of the required "right-to-know" knowledge about the chemicals they work with. They will learn the hazards of the chemicals, and in doing so, they’ll greatly reduce the number of occupational illnesses and injuries related to chemical handling. This requirement and the policy of information itself is enforced by OSHA.
According the U.S. Secretary of Labor, hazardous chemical exposure is a serious threat to American workers. The recent revision of OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard is designed to improve hazard information quality, which is a win/win for both employees and employers. Employees will stay safe and healthy, employers will be able to compete in a global market with less time lost to hazards, health issues, and confusion. Cost savings will be the end result for businesses, as well as increased productivity and reduced trade restrictions.
The Hazard Communication Standard is now in sync with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, allowing a common, full integrated approach to chemical classification and the communication of hazard information on both labeling and data sheets. The goal: to make workers safer by offering easy to understand information on handling and safe chemical use.
Manufacturers and importers of chemicals are now required to evaluate chemical hazards including preparing labels and safety data sheets to express this evaluation to customers and handlers. These labels and data sheets must be in place for all workers, to train them in appropriate handling and prevent accidents or over exposure to the products.
OSHA has new online tools to help employers and employees in adopting protective exposure limits, and in choosing safer chemical alternatives, too. These tools include new annotated tables that show up-to-date permissible exposure limits as well as a tool kit that employers can use to select safer chemicals as an alternative to using more hazardous chemicals.
The protective exposure limit tables, or PELs, previously in use were out of date. With thousands of chemicals used in U.S. work environments daily, the new tables are designed to prevent workers from becoming ill or injured from chemical use.
In short, the Hazard Communication Program including OSHA updates is intended to help maintain a healthy work place through increased employee hazard awareness about chemicals through standardized information, such as that communicated through Safety Data Sheets that list physical properties and hazards of chemicals. Such information should be obtained and used for each specific product to create solid and easily understood information about chemicals and improve worker safety.