Learn what is Hazard Communication (HazCom) and its relation to workers’ health and safety. Understand why HazCom has to be updated and aligned to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
Published 23 Nov 2022
Hazard Communication Standards, also known as HazCom or the “Right-to-Know Law,” is a set of standards or rules created by OSHA that intend to keep employees informed about chemical hazards or potential hazards in the workplace through proper labeling of containers, the use of Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and employee training.
Workers or employees may be exposed to different chemical hazards and they have the right to know what they are getting exposed to while working. This is the reason HazCom was established. When workers are informed, they, and the people responsible for their safety, can take steps to help ensure that they are going to be protected from risks and hazards.
Certain chemicals can cause harm when people get exposed to them. Such chemicals can get in contact in a number of ways:
The HazCom rule specified in the 29 CFR 1910.1200 HAZCOM standard was updated in March 2012 in order to be aligned with the U.N. Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
The GHS was developed by the United Nations in the 1990s to standardize the classification and labeling of chemical substances. People who work with hazardous materials need to know what to do in event of an accident. This is the primary goal of GHS—to standardize hazard criteria, use pictograms, and simplify safety data sheets that give workers essential information for their protection.
With the old HCS, workers have found the information provided in the safety data sheets difficult to understand. Many terminologies and chemical information are incomprehensible. This is the reason the “Right-to-Know” Law was updated to become the workers’ “Right-to-Comprehend” or understand.
Because of this change to HCS, a more simplified and comprehensive approach to identifying chemicals and presenting hazard information on labels and safety data sheets became available. All businesses who have hazardous chemicals in their workplaces are required to provide labels and safety data sheets to their exposed workers, as well as to train them on how to properly handle the chemicals.
Manufacturers, importers, and distributors must be aware of and comply with changes in the standard labeling of chemicals. The following are the changes in the updated HCS, from the 1990s version to 2012:
Classifying hazards in the workplace is the right place to begin with in hazard communication. Employers have to be transparent with the information regarding chemical hazards in their workplaces. GHS has divided the different types of hazards into three major classifications. These classifications must be present in the labels as required by HazCom:
Standard labels are used to show how dangerous the hazard is and to inform the reader to be cautious. Presently, there are two approved GHS signal words that can be used. Only one signal word should be used on each label:
Sample Hazard Communication Standard Label from OSHA
OSHA’s HazCom now requires the following elements on labels of hazardous chemicals:
“Danger” is used if the chemical poses an immediate threat, like death or long-term health problems.
“Warning” is used if a substance poses health problems when exposed.
Since aligning with the GHS, it is now required by HCS to use pictograms on chemical labels. GHS has nine hazard pictograms and they are as follows:
The hazard statements list is grouped by the classification of hazards mentioned earlier. Each statement has its corresponding codes based on the chemical’s properties. See the complete list here: hazard statements list.
A precautionary statement is a phrase that may be used to give information and guidance on how to avoid having adverse effects from being exposed to a hazardous substance or mixture.
View the complete list here: Precautionary statements list.
Safety data sheets are called Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) before the HCS was updated. It now has a specified 16-section format. SDS must provide comprehensive information about substances and mixtures used in workplaces. They are a source of information about hazards and safety precautions. The 16-section format of safety data sheets appears in this order:
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Employers are required to train their workers to understand and comply with HazCom. They should be trained on the following:
Keep your workplace safe and secure by empowering your workers to be well-informed and by efficiently using the information they are provided with. Comply with HazCom by implementing the use of SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor), the best app for safety inspections, compliance checks, data collection, and continuous improvement of safety in the workplace.
You are able to do the following with SafetyCulture's help:
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Loida Bauto is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. An Interior Designer by training, she began to pursue her passion for writing in 2017. Her interests involve a diverse range of topics such as Disability, Universal Design, and Sustainability, among other matters that aim to improve the world we live in. She is a self-published book author in 2018 and 2021.
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