As we have mentioned in previous posts, employers of workplaces where workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals must provide their employees with a written hazard communication program that describes how the HazCom standard is implemented in their facilities. An effective chemical safety and health management program has significant benefits for both the workers and the employer.
However, many employers find it difficult to implement the required hazard communication program and they believe that the whole procedure is more like a “paper exercise” they have to comply with. It should be highlighted that if employers use properly the information they obtain from this program, they will control potential hazards for workers exposed to chemicals and this will result in a decrease in illnesses and injuries caused by chemicals in their workplace. Effective hazard communication leads to better management of chemicals in the workplace and as a result this will enhance productivity and reduce workers’ compensation costs, as well.
The first step to a Hazard Communication Program is to learn the Standard and identify the responsible staff. So, employers must obtain a copy of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard and become familiar with its provisions. You can have online access to the standard, as well as guidance, interpretations, and other relevant materials on its hazard communication at OSHA’s web page: www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom. In order to achieve compliance with all the elements of the standard, it is necessary to identify staff for particular activities (e.g., training). However, employers have to ensure that the requirements of this standard are accomplished, so they have to assign overall responsibility for coordinating implementation to a responsible person.
As an exception, laboratories and operations where chemicals are only handled in sealed containers do not need to have written hazard communication programs and lists of chemicals. They only have to keep labels on containers as they are received; maintain SDSs that are received, give employees access to them; and provide information and training to employees.