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Chemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (such as flammability, corrosion, and reactivity). OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is designed to ensure that information about these hazards and associated protective measures is disseminated. This is accomplished by requiring chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and to provide information about them through labels on shipped containers and more detailed information sheets called safety data sheets (SDSs) — or for older chemical shipments, material safety data sheets (MSDS).
All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program, and must ensure that all containers are labeled, employees are provided access to SDSs, and an effective training program is conducted for all potentially exposed employees.
OSHA’s HazCom standard applies to general industry, shipyard, marine terminals, longshoring, and construction employment and covers chemical manufacturers, importers, employers, and employees exposed to chemical hazards. Basically, any employer with one employee and one hazardous chemical is covered.
The HazCom standard does not apply to articles; although, the standard can apply to employees who use consumer products, depending on the duration and frequency of use:
Note: There are only two types of work operations where coverage of the rule is limited (but not totally eliminated). These are laboratories and operations where chemicals are only handled in sealed containers (e.g., a warehouse). Basically, employers having these types of work operations need only keep labels on containers as they are received, maintain safety data sheets that are received (and give employees access to them), and provide information and training for employees. These employers do not have to have written hazard communication programs and lists of chemicals for these types of operations.
The HazCom standard requires that employers who have employees exposed to hazardous chemicals:
Manufacturers and distributors of hazardous chemicals have additional responsibilities, including evaluating and classifying chemicals as to their hazards, creating SDSs, and labeling shipped containers with detailed information as described in the standard.