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OSHA Hazard Communication Standard

Overview: Under its federal Hazard Communication Standard (8-24-87), OSHA requires employers in all industries (manufacturing and non- manufacturing) exposed to hazardous substances to educate and train all workers about chemical hazards they may encounter on the job.  The Hazard Communication Standard became fully applicable to the construction industry 1-30-89; the Supreme Court rejected on 2-21-89 the construction industry’s request to delay enforcement of the standard.

Hazard communication requirements.  The Hazard Communication Standard is one of the broadest and most significant workplace health programs to date.  According to OSHA chief Gerard Scannell, more than 13,000 employers were cited in fiscal year 1990 for failing to have a written hazard communication program- more than any other specific OSHA violation.

Preemption of state right- to- know laws.  OSHA’s standard preempts all state or local right-to-know laws except in states where it has approved state programs.

Compliance.  Hazard communication requirements include:

  • logging all chemicals and substances (as defined in the Act) into a chemical inventory;
  • collecting and retaining information on every chemical hazard in the   workplace, in the form of “material safety data sheets” or MSDSs;
  • labeling containers of hazardous substances as to their content and the hazards these substances present;
  • educating and training employees to understand MSDSs, the nature of the hazards of each substance, how to avoid these hazards, and the warning signs associated with exposure to each substance; and
  • preparing a written hazard communication plan that summarizes the employer’s approach, plan for hazard communication, and the designation of key official(s) who will be responsible for implementing and maintaining the program.

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