Hazard Communication

Cogbill Construction Weekly Safety
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Employees may at times be required to use chemical products during the course of their employment. Some chemicals can be harmless, while others can be fatal. Globalization has added another dimension to the problem where different manufacturers and different countries had their own standards to communicate the hazardous effects of their products and how to safely use them. In 2003, the U.N. passed the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), a unified method for manufacturers to communicate to their customers the hazardous effects and safe usage, handling, storage and transportation of their products. The United States was a late comer to the party and did not adopt this system until 2012.

GHS offers a standardized method to communicate such critical information, mainly using a unified labeling methodology on products’ containers, and a unified format for the Safety Data Sheets (SDS). This allows a manufacturer in Argentina to clearly communicate the hazards of their products to their customers in Spain, for example. Companies that use such chemicals are then required to have a set of Hazard Communication Standards (HCS) set in place to deliver information regarding all hazardous chemicals in use at the workplace and the protective measures that go with them to all employees.

In order to have a quality set of Hazardous Communication Standards, employers need to have the following set into place:

1. A list of the hazardous materials and chemicals, which are used in the course of the company’s business activities, shall be maintained and updated.

2. All materials need to be properly labeled. Labels that have been worn down or torn need to be replaced.

3. Proper training needs to be provided for all employees on hazardous materials. Employees should be taught how to read SDS sheets, how to use fire extinguishers and body/eye wash and where they are located, and first aid and CPR training.

4. All storage areas for hazardous substances must be secured, properly ventilated, and identified by signs.

If you are a business that hires contractors and/or provide contracting services for other companies, the following information should be provided to your contractors/customers when hazardous chemicals are involved:

  • Hazardous chemicals which can be encountered.
  • Measures to minimize the possibility of exposure.
  • Providing the SDS and labeling of all hazardous chemicals.
  • Procedures to be followed if an exposure occurs.