When most people think of workplaces that house hazardous materials, they are likely to list factories, refineries, nuclear plants, and similar industrial settings. But even a small office might stock potentially dangerous chemicals, such as bleach and other cleaning products.“Whether you’ve got a tanker-load or just a small bottle-full, a hazardous material in the workplace needs to be considered as a potential health risk,” said Benjamin Mangan, president of MANCOMM, a provider of regulatory compliance and safety training material. At every business level, big or small, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations apply to the use of, and exposure to, the chemicals and other substances found in the work environment. Following these regulations is an essential directive for all companies – and not just because they should stay compliant with government regulations. They also need to protect the health and well-being of their workers and communities. “OSHA requires employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces to prepare and implement a written hazard communication program to identify dangerous substances present in the workplace,” said Mangan. “Employers must ensure that containers are labeled, employees are provided access to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical, and training is provided for potentially exposed employees.”
The Importance of Hazard Communication Employees need to know the identities and hazards of chemicals they are exposed to in the workplace. With this information, they can take part in their employers’ protective programs and also take steps to protect themselves.In many cases, the hazardous materials found in small businesses are cleaning chemicals – and usually, they are consumer products, the same as those used in most households. These chemicals do not need to be included in a Hazard Communication program if they are used for the product’s intended purpose, duration and frequency. If a chemical is used for other purposes – for example, if bleach is used full-strength instead of at a diluted strength given in the directions – it would need to be part of the Hazard Communication program. Other considerations include the length of time the product is used, as well as the frequency of its use. If it is used for a longer period than it would be at home, and/or more frequently, then it also needs to be part of Hazard Communication. The same applies if the business has more areas to clean than one would at home. Businesses should keep a list of the chemicals they use and make sure there are procedures for:
- container labeling,
- how MSDSs will be received and kept, and
- making this information readily available to employees.
Terminology of Hazardous Materials?
Are you familiar with the terminology of hazardous materials? See if you can match up the following ten hazardous materials terms with their correct definitions. (Answers at end of article.)
3. Material Safety Data Sheet
6. TECP Suit
8. Hazardous Substance
10. HAZMAT Team
A. An abbreviation for OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard legislation, which requires employers to assess the hazards associated with the materials in their workplace and to inform workers of those hazards.
B. An abbreviation for OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, which applies to hazardous waste facilities and their employees.
C. An abbreviation that refers to hazardous material that may pose unreasonable risks to health, safety, property, or the environment when used, transported, stored, or discarded.
D. An infectious agent that presents a risk of death, injury or illness to employees.
E. A substance which, by reason of being explosive, flammable, poisonous, corrosive, oxidizing, irritating, or otherwise harmful, can cause death or injury.
F. An organized group of trained employees who work to handle and control actual or potential leaks or spills of hazardous substances, requiring possible close approach to the substance.
G. Printed material concerning a hazardous material to provide information to prevent and respond to potential emergency situations.
H. A substance which can cause cancer when a person has ingested or received exposure to it, either internally or externally.
I. A totally encapsulated, chemical protective full-body garment, constructed of protective clothing materials which encloses the wearer and a respirator.
J. An abbreviation for personal protective equipment, used to reduce employee exposure to hazards. Employers are required to determine all exposures to hazards in their workplace and determine if this equipment should be used to protect workers.
American Safety Training, Inc.