Over the past few years, one of the most violated safety regulations is hazard communication (HazCom). From the report announced by the National Safety Council Congress & Expo, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recorded more than 4,000 violations and over $10.1 million worth of fines issued for transportation, manufacturing, and service sectors in 2012 alone. This is rather alarming.
If you really think about it, maintaining safety precautions shouldn’t just be about protecting your investments and preventing future health costs – it should also be about keeping your clients and employees safe from health hazards – and essentially, for most companies, it is. This is why OSHA regulations are being strictly enforced and constantly updated, to lower workplace fatalities and injuries.
What you need to know about HazCom and where do employers usually go wrong?
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard provides a strict set of regulations that help ensure all hazardous chemicals are adequately evaluated, and the information pertaining to these hazards are properly relayed to employees. Given such information, workers will then be equipped with the proper knowledge needed to help protect them from harmful exposure to such substances.
Key parts of HazCom regulation include hazard determination, developing a well-written safety program, providing material safety data sheets on hand, proper labeling, and adequate training.
When it comes to protecting people from the dangers of hazardous substance handling, most companies fail from the start due to the inability to provide employees with a concrete, written HazCom program. When you don’t have a general plan for situations that involve such dangerous substances, it is highly likely that equally important safety factors will be forgotten.
A properly written HazCom safety program will help your company establish a sound HazCom compliance plan. From this, you can map out the tools you need for identifying specific hazards, what labeling techniques to use, and how you will train your employees.
To further enhance workplace safety, OSHA has provided revisions to the existing HazCom standards. These new standards have been established to continuously address the problems in HazCom and to strengthen the level of awareness regarding the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). These major changes include the following points:
- Hazard classification
– Formerly tagged as “hazard determination,” this new standard will accommodate the new GHS classification system.
– OSHA is now adopting 8 new pictograms in line with GHS guidelines. These pictograms should be on every label and data sheet within your facility.
- Material Safety Data Sheets
– Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) will now become Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Each SDS should be in a 16-section format. The required elements for this change are all detailed in the new HazCom standard.
– Labeling will now follow a uniform format that contains 9 elements including product identifier, pictogram, signal words, hazard statement, supplemental information, precautionary measures, first aid details, company details, and company contact number.
Be ready for these changes
Given these major changes in the HazCom standards, OSHA is giving companies a 2-year window to achieve compliance. You’ll need updated HazCom materials to keep your employees aware and informed of these possible hazards.
With this shift, keeping communication lines open is important. Having well trained employees is also a key component, if you want total compliance with the new HazCom standards. The safety and well being of the people within your facility is the most basic tenet that guides these standards and, as such, should be given the proper attention it warrants.
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