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Hazard Communication

     When you travel in your car, you expect the government posted road signs to warn you of the unexpected hazards on the road ahead. Likewise, at work you expect your employer to warn you of unexpected hazards you may find on the job. They do this by the OSHA {Occupational Safety and Health Administration} Hazard Communication Standard. By reading warning labels on containers, understanding the use of MSDS {Material Safety Data Sheets}, and questions for your supervisor, you can stay on the safe road of employment. Just as you see drivers violating warning signs on the freeway, workers frequently ignore guidelines of the Hazard Communication Standard or “HazCom Standard”. These safety standards mandated by law continue to be OSHA’s most violated guideline. Employers implement this standard to protect you from dangerous chemicals at your workplace.

     Chemicals can produce physical hazards such as burns on the exterior of your body. If ingested or inhaled, they can produce internal health hazards such as nausea or illness. These can either be “acute”, short term and immediate or “chronic” and happen slowly over a longer time of exposure. Under “HazCom”, your employer must comply with the following and make these available to you.

1] A list of hazardous chemicals onsite and their MSDS’s

2] Informing you where hazardous materials are located in your work place

3] Explaining your available methods for detecting a release of these materials

4] Training you to protect yourself from exposure to these materials

5] Informing you of the location of your HazCom Program and its use

Your training must include how to use this program, and should be repeated every time a new hazardous substance is added to the inventory. OSHA can interview any employee during their inspections to determine you understand how to use this plan.

     Just as a road sign gives you generic information, a chemical label may also not yield all the information needed. When a chemical hazard label is noticed, use common sense.

1] Never mix chemicals

2] Never assume an unmarked container is harmless

3] Never remove labels unless you are replacing them with others immediately

All labels must be legible, prominently displayed, and identify the chemical by proper name. Additionally, they must display hazard warnings, name of manufacturer or responsible party. Some situations in facilities do not require warning labels. Piping is not considered a container, but it may have other identifiers. Portable containers designated for immediate process use, if poured into from a labeled container for immediate use, is also exempt. So, never leave an unmarked container you used unattended. Actual process containers may be marked, IF they follow two criteria. 1] The warning label must identify the container reactor for the hazard, 2] the warning label must contain the same information as the original storage container.

     When you become lost on the road, you consult a map. At work with hazardous chemicals, you consult the MSDS {Material Safety Data Sheet}. Your employers “HazCom” plan, must have every MSDS for each hazardous chemical in the workplace. The MSDS contains more than the four {4} basic categories of worker information, as these forms are also used by emergency response teams. The first is product information. This section ranges from identification of the material and ingredients unless they are trade secrets, to exposure limits like the PEL {Permissible Exposure Limit} and STEL {Short Term Exposure Limits} that are critical to the worker. Also in this section are the physical and health hazards. The second category contains various exposure situations. First Aid, response procedures, and firefighting methods are also covered in this area. For plant, spill teams, this section also includes measures for accidental releases and cleanup procedures. The third section deals with handling tactics to allow you to store hazardous materials safely. This section teaches you how to minimize your exposure to hazardous materials. Also included is the physical appearance and stability of the chemical. Section four {4} states whether the chemical will cause dangerous reactions when released improperly from its container. With the information from these sections alone, all employees can drive the safe road at the workplace.  

                                                                             Haz Mat Mike

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