Misconceptions on the Hazard Communication requirements

Date Posted: 07/25/2022
Employee referencing Safety Data Sheet (SDS) Binder

The Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard is one of OSHA’s most-cited regulations. Common problems include failing to create or maintain a written plan and failing to train employees. These failures often involve employers who simply don’t know that the standard applies to their employees. The following outlines some common misconceptions about when the HazCom standard applies.

Consumer products

Employees might use consumer products such as paint, window cleaner, or lubricants, perhaps purchased from a local hardware store. These products can be exempt from the HazCom standard, but only if the employee’s use results in a duration or frequency of exposure similar to typical consumer use.

For example, if office workers wipe down their desks with a disinfectant on occasion, their exposure is probably comparable to typical consumer use. However, a custodian who spends all day cleaning windows around the building has much greater exposure and would be covered by the HazCom standard. Among other things, the employer would need a written program and the custodian would need training as well as access to Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).

Handling without using

In some warehouses or retail operations, employees might handle sealed containers of hazardous substances, but don’t actually use them on the job. However, the HazCom standard requires those employees to receive training on how to protect themselves in the event of a spill or leak. The standard also requires that containers be properly labeled and that affected employees have access to SDSs.

Manufacture includes repackaging

Most employers don’t actually manufacture chemicals, at least in the common interpretation of those terms. However, the HazCom standard defines chemical manufacturers to include workplaces where chemicals “are produced for use or distribution.” Further, the standard defines “produce” to include repackaging.

For example, employers that receive bulk supplies of hazardous substances (including some consumer products) and repackage them for distribution are considered “manufacturers” under the HazCom standard. Among other obligations, the manufacturer must ensure that containers are properly labeled and provide an SDS for the material.

OSHA did provide a letter of interpretation dated July 15, 1996, noting that the repackager could contact the bulk supplier and obtain consent for that supplier to be the designated responsible party on both the SDS and shipping label. That way, the repackager doesn’t have to create it’s own SDS.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Safety Topic Webcasts

During 2021, three of OSHA’s top 10 citations were related to HazCom – specifically the provisions for written programs, training and information, and safety data sheets. Understanding how the standard applies is essential for avoiding costly violations and protecting employees. To learn more, watch oyr archived webinar “Your Responsibilities Under HazCom” recorded on July 28, 2022. We’ll took a closer look at the top five requirements, and answered your questions. Log in or start a free trial to watch this archived webcast!

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