Hazard Communication: Frequently Asked Questions

Answering frequently asked questions on Hazard Communication and Safety Data Sheets.

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Hazard Communication (HazCom)

Q: What is Hazcom?

Hazcom stands for Hazard Communication, being a common shorthand for the term.

Hazard Communication is a system of conveying what hazards are present in a given location or when dealing with a certain material. This encompasses visual indicators, like safety signs, to documents, like the safety data sheet, to safety training programs.

Hazard Communication is a vital part of safety and applies to all types of businesses, from a petrochemical refinery employing several thousand people to a self-employed home business owner using lye for soap making.

Learn More Hazcom Article

Q: What are the hazard communication standard requirements for employers?

A: The Hazard Communication Standard is a United States Federal Regulation, written and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The full requirements for the hazard communication standard can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, 29 CFR 1910.1200.

In summary, the hazard communication standard covers the following:

• Hazard Classification for Physical Hazards, Health Hazards, and Hazards Not Otherwise Classified

• Defining the Written Hazard Communication Program

• Defining the requirements for Labels and Other Forms of Warning

• Defining the requirements for Safety Data Sheets

• Defining the requirements for Employee Information and Training

Q: How often is hazard communication training required?

A: Hazard communication training is required when an employee will be exposed to hazards not previously covered by their training.

This training can be when a new employee is onboarded, when an employee is transferred to a new work area, or when a new hazardous chemical is introduced to the workplace.

There are currently no requirements for renewal of hazard communication standard training once that training has been completed. A three-year renewal cycle is recommended to ensure the trainee is up to date with any changes to the regulations, and the information remains fresh.

Q: What is a Written Hazard Communication Program?

A: A written hazard communication program is a document that explains how an employer will meet the criteria for having the appropriate labels, safety data sheets, and employee training. The program also includes a list of the hazardous chemicals known to be present and methods the employer will use to inform employees of hazards of non-routine tasks.

Q: What is the GHS?

A: GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

The GHS was created by the United Nations (UN) in 2002, and adopted into use in 2003, for the purpose of standardizing how the classification of hazardous chemicals is performed and how those hazards are communicated.

The GHS itself is not a regulation. However, many countries, including the United States, have incorporated the GHS into their regulations on hazard communication.

Learn More GHS Article

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Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Q: What is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

A: An SDS is a safety document that contains information about the identified chemical, either a pure substance or a mixture of substances.

The SDS is organized into 16 sections, which contain safety information such as the chemical composition (section 3), first-aid measures (section 4), and physical and chemical properties (section 9).

Q: Why are safety data sheets (SDSs) important?

A: When working with hazardous chemicals, the SDS is the go-to document to answer safety questions.

SDSs contain important information about hazardous chemicals. This information includes how a chemical is hazardous, such as being toxic or flammable. The SDS also includes what personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed to safety handle the chemical, how to safely store the chemical, and what to do in the event of an accident or spill.

Q: What forms can a safety data sheet (SDS) take? What format can an SDS be in to be made available to employees?

A: SDSs can be digital or physical and are often kept in both formats as needed.

Likewise, SDSs can be provided to employees, or any other person who needs one, in a digital or physical format. For SDSs provided to employees, the most important thing is that the documents must be freely accessible. For example, a physical binder cannot be kept in a locked cabinet and a digital archive cannot be password locked.

Have More Questions?

Check out our articles on Hazard Communication.

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