To better protect workers from hazardous chemicals, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) aligning it with the United Nations’ global chemical labeling system. There will be new labeling and data sheets on chemicals according to the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). GHS is an international approach to hazard communication, providing agreed criteria for classification of chemical hazards, and a standardized approach to label elements and safety data sheets.
OSHA is requiring all employers, including home health and hospice, to train all employees on the revised hazard communication labels and data sheets elements (e.g., pictograms and signal words) by December 1, 2013. The Hazard Communication Standard, will be fully implemented in 2016 and benefit workers by reducing confusion about chemical hazards in the workplace, facilitating safety training and improving understanding of hazards, especially for low literacy workers. OSHA’s standard will classify chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and establish consistent labels and safety data sheets for all chemicals made in the United States and imported from abroad.
Further information can be reviewed at OSHA’s Hazard Communication Safety and Health which includes links to OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard and guidance materials such as Q and A’s, OSHA fact sheet and Quick Cards.
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Training is an integral part of any hazard communication program. Under the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), all employers are required to inform and train their employees at the time of their initial assignment to a work area where hazardous chemicals are present, and wherever a new hazard is introduced into the work area.