Having a procedure for safely handling hazardous chemicals in the workplace helps maintain safety compliance and prevents costly injury. Accordingly, employers must follow the requirements managed under the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Generally, all employees should understand and receive training on the hazardous chemicals in their work area. To help accomplish proper training, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Under the HCS, employers that keep chemicals in their workplace must implement a hazard communication program. Specifically, as dictated by the GHS, the program must include detailed labels on containers of hazardous chemicals. Employers must also provide chemical safety data sheets and employee training. In September 2021, OSHA announced efforts to create a heat-related illnesses prevention standard to ensure workplace protections across the country.

A Standardized Approach to Labeling and Safety

To help employers and employees better understand potential safety hazards, as well as proper procedures associated with handling hazardous chemicals, OSHA revised its HCS to align with the GHS. In essence, this provides a standardized approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. Accordingly, the HCS now includes the following:

  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must label all chemical products. The label must include a signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each class and category.
  • Pictograms: Pictograms are graphic symbols used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical.
  • Hazard Classification: Specific criteria for the classification of health and physical hazards.
  • Safety Data Sheets: Employers must keep safety data sheets for their exposed workers in a specified 16-section format.
  • Information and Training: Employers are required to train workers on new label elements and safety data sheets to ensure recognition and understanding.

Written Program for Handling Hazardous Chemicals

Employers that have hazardous chemicals in the workplace must describe how they will meet HCS and GHS training requirements in a written program. In brief, to implement an effective hazard communication program, employers can follow six steps:

  1. Learn the Standard and Identify Responsible Staff.
  2. Prepare and Implement a Written Hazard Communication Program.
  3. Ensure Containers are Labeled.
  4. Maintain Safety Data Sheets.
  5. Inform and Train Employees.
  6. Evaluate and Reassess the Program.

GHS Compliance Training Module

Overall, educating employees about chemical hazards, safety data sheets, and chemical labels complies with HCS and GHS training requirements. Furthermore, a procedure for handling hazardous chemicals maintains a safe workplace. To help employers fulfill mandatory employee training requirements covering the GHS standard, Personnel Concepts created the GHS Compliance Training Module. The online, interactive module helps employees understand HCS policies and procedures, navigate the GHS standard, and interpret the elements of chemical labels and different sections of safety data sheets.