What is Hazard Communication (Hazcom)?

Overview - What is Hazcom?

Hazard Communication, also shortened to Hazcom, is a system of communicating the danger or risk associated with a situation, energy source, material, or chemical.

These communications can take the form of warning labels, written procedures, safety training, and more depending on the specific hazard and regulations being followed.

What About Chemical Safety

OSHA's hazard communication standard (HCS) is covered in 29 CFR 1910.1200 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The purpose of the HCS is to ensure the proper classification of potential hazards of a chemical and the proper communication of information pertaining to any hazards. The responsibility for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals is that of the chemical manufacturers and importers. The responsibility of following the remainder of the HCS is for employers which have hazardous chemicals in the workplace, including chemical manufacturers and importers as well as chemical distributors and laboratories.

Written Hazard Communication Program (Written Program)

The written hazard communication program, or written program, is a document that summarizes how an employer will comply with the HCS requirements.

The written program must include the following:

  1. A description of how the labeling and other forms of warning requirements will be met.

  2. A description of how the safety data sheet (SDS) requirements will be met.

  3. A description of how the employee information and training program requirements will be met.

  4. A list of the hazardous chemicals in the workplace, using the same product identifier as on the corresponding SDS.

  5. The methods the employer will use to inform employees of hazards associated with non-routine tasks.

In the event that an employer is in a multi-employer workplace where employees of other employers may be exposed to hazardous chemicals, the following must also be included in the written program.

  1. The methods used to provide other employers access to SDSs.

  2. The methods used to provide other employers with necessary precautionary measures to be taken during normal operations as well as in the event of an emergency.

  3. The methods used to inform other employers of the workplace labeling system.

Labels and Other Forms of Warning

Labels must include the following information:

  1. Product identifier

  2. Signal word

  3. Hazard statement(s)

  4. Pictogram(s)

  5. Precautionary statement(s)

  6. Name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party

Shipped container labeling must be in the form of a label applied to the outside of the chemical container. This label is separate but complementary to the labeling requirements of the Department of Transportation's Hazardous Materials Regulations (DOT HMR).

Workplace labeling may include affixed labels or signs, placards, process sheets, and other similar written materials which include the required information.

Learn More Chemical Labels Article

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Safety data sheets, previously known as material safety data sheets (MSDS), are documents that contain important safety information on a hazardous chemical, or group of hazardous chemicals with similar composition and shared physical and chemical properties.

SDSs have sixteen (16) sections to follow GHS guidelines, which include emergency response and disposal measures as well as physical and chemical properties of the hazardous chemical. SDSs may be kept in any form, physical or digital, and must be readily accessible to employees in their work area(s).

Employee Information and Training

Employees must be informed of the following:

  1. The requirements of the HCS

  2. Any operations in their work area(s) where hazardous chemicals are present, both involving their own job duties and any job duties carried out in their proximity

  3. The location and availability of the written hazard communication program which includes the required list(s) of hazardous chemicals and safety data sheets

The employee training program must cover the following:

  1. How to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area, such as the appearance or odor of a hazardous chemical, and what monitoring devices are in use.

  2. The specific hazards of hazardous chemicals in the workplace, including the physical and health hazards as well as hazards not otherwise classified such as combustible dust.

  3. The preventative measures an employee can take to protect themselves from the present hazards. This includes standard operating procedures, emergency procedures, and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

  4. The details of the written hazard communication program including the workplace labeling system and how to read SDSs to obtain needed hazard information.

Classification of Hazardous Chemicals

Chemical manufacturers and importers are responsible for classifying chemicals. Foreign manufacturers are not responsible for the classification of chemicals imported into the United States. Classification is the responsibility of the American business.

The specific criteria for classifying Health Hazards are in Appendix A. The specific criteria for classifying Physical Hazards are in Appendix B.

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