The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created its Hazard Communication Standard, commonly referred to as HAZCOM, to ensure workers are informed of any chemical hazards they may encounter while on the job. A critical part of OSHA’s HAZCOM requirements is that employers need to provide employees with proper training on how to remain safe when working with hazardous chemicals.
HAZCOM training should occur at the time of an employee’s initial assignment, and whenever a new chemical is introduced into their work area. While OSHA does not specify a particular format for such training, organizations should always aim for the most effective training format for the topic at hand. It’s also important to remember that in addition to employee training, HAZCOM standards require chemical-specific information to always be available through labels and safety data sheets.
What does HAZCOM training need to cover?
The training can cover categories of hazards (e.g. carcinogenicity) or specific chemicals, but OSHA outlines several key topics that need to be included. For example, employees must be trained in the methods used to detect the presence of the hazardous chemicals in the work area. This includes how to read monitoring devices, as well as the visual appearance or odor of said chemicals when they are released.
HAZCOM training must also include the various hazards that may result due to unprotected exposure to chemicals. This ranges from potential physical and health hazards, to more specific combustible dust and pyrophoric gas hazards. Any hazards that are not otherwise classified but may still pose a risk due to the presence of a chemical, must also be included. Furthermore, it is critical employees are trained in the measures they can take to protect themselves from these hazards. Any specific safety procedures that an organization has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals should also be covered during HAZCOM training.
Finally, OSHA requires organizations to train employees in the details of their hazard communication program. Training should cover the explanation of chemical labels, the workplace’s labeling system, safety data sheet (SDS), and the how employees can obtain and use appropriate hazard information.
What happens if you don't comply with HAZCOM standards?
Any organizations found to be noncompliant with HAZCOM Standards will face severe fines for endangering their employees. OSHA categorizes failure to abide by HAZCOM Standards as a “willful” violation, which as of 2018 can result in a fine of up to $129,336 per violation, with this number to be adjusted for inflation each year. Violations can range from improper posting of safety data sheets to inadequate employee training in hazard communication.
The most efficient way to ensure HAZCOM Standards are being followed is to have a system that compiles all the necessary training data to be reviewed and tracked. Safety software is available to organizations looking to keep record of employee training, automatically remind employees when training is needed, and schedule reports on what training is overdue. If you’re looking to ease the burden of keeping track of your employee training, consider signing up for a demo of IndustrySafe Safety Management Software.