Do you have hazardous chemicals in your workplace? If you think the answer is no, are you sure?
OSHA defines a hazardous chemical as one that presents either a physical or a health hazard. Many common and readily available products such as paints, cleaners, and other materials found in the workplace meet this definition. In fact, last year OSHA issued over 6,300 violations to companies that failed to comply with this standard. As we noted in a previous blog, non-compliance with the Hazard Communication standard was the third-largest source of OSHA violations in 2009 and 2010!
If you are an employer, you have a legal obligation to provide a workplace that is free of recognized hazards and to communicate any hazards present to those in the workplace. In 1985, OSHA established the Hazard Communication Standard ( 1910.1200) to ensure, in part, that all workers have the "right-to-know" about the hazardous chemicals in their workplace.
Essentially, employees have a Right-to-Know about any hazardous substances that they may come into contact with at work and how to protect themselves from adverse affects. Employees, for their part, have a responsibility to follow directions and work safely by using products for their intended purpose and in accordance with the manufacturers instructions to reduce risk and chance of exposure. This is where the Hazard Communication Standard kicks in, as all workplace information about hazardous substances needs to be in a Written Hazard Communication Program. This "HazCom" program must contain
- A list of all hazardous chemicals in the workplace and a Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each chemical (or product) on that list
- All employees must have access to that list and the MSDSs during their work shift
- Methods to communicate hazards of these chemicals to employees, on-site contractors and visitors such as signs and labels
- Records showing that all employees have been properly trained to understand the hazards, read the MSDSs and understand labeling and signs.
In addition to the federal OSHA requirements for labeling, the State of New Jersey has specific labeling requirements for all vessels, piping and containers that contain hazardous chemicals.
So, do you have hazardous chemicals in your workplace? Are you rethinking your answer?
If you have products that arrive with an MSDS, and you have not implemented a written HazCom Program, youll need to get a program in place to be OSHA compliant. If you have been following the standard, consider the following:
- Are you keeping up with its requirements?
- When was the last time your HazCom Program was reviewed?
- Is your hazardous chemical list and MSDS collection up-to-date?
- Do you know what OSHA considers Hazardous?
- Is every hazardous chemical container labeled properly even the transfer containers?
- Are ALL your employees trained about the workings of your HazCom program and the hazards of each chemical in their workplace?
Now do you know the answer? Or, do you have more questions?
If you are confused or intimidated, dont worry. A great resource is the Institute of Hazardous Materials Managers which certifies individuals as Hazardous Materials Managers (CHMM) and Hazardous Materials Practitioners (CHMP). These trained professionals must demonstrate various levels of knowledge, expertise, and excellence in the management of hazardous materials. And, there are EHS (Environmental, Health and Safety) experts like Emilcott everywhere their job is to help companies stay in compliance with state and federal regulations while protecting employees. No matter what resource you find, just ask if they are experienced in developing Hazardous Communication programs. Not only will workers stay health and safety, youll see added benefits like prevention of property damage, reduced insurance claims and costs, and, of course, your company will not be cited for OSHAs third most-common violation!
Have you found any chemicals in your workplace that you didnt know are hazardous? Does your right-to-know increase your job comfort level or concern you? And, have you carefully reviewed the company HazCom plan so that you understand what to do if ?