Why Effective Chemical Safety Training Is More Important Than Ever
Despite being a critical component of employee safety, HazCom training is one of the most overlooked elements of employer safety programs.
Despite being a critical component of employee safety, HazCom training is one of the most overlooked elements of employer safety programs. And now, the recent global COVID-19 pandemic has presented several new challenges to millions of workplaces, as an increasing number of chemical disinfectants are being introduced into workplaces, creating a critical need for additional chemical safety training.
For instance, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) does not require employers to include consumer cleaning products in their workplace HazCom program when those products are used as intended by the manufacturer. However, those same products when used in a different manner, including in greater quantities, durations or frequencies that result in a range of exposures greater than that experienced by typical consumers, can be subject to the stricter requirements of the HCS.
Today, COVID-19 has created an urgent need for more frequent disinfectant use for cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces and limiting the further spread of the SARS CoV-2 virus. As a result, workplace exposures may now exceed the range of the typical consumer, triggering coverage under OSHA’s HCS.
The five key components to OSHA’s HCS and high-level employer responsibilities are:
1. Maintain a Written HazCom Plan
2. Keep an updated written chemical inventory
3. Ensure proper labeling of hazardous chemicals
4. Maintain and provide access to safety data sheets (SDSs)
5. Train employees on HazCom and chemical hazards
As one of the main pillars of HCS, employee training is critical not just for workplace safety, but for your company’s overall regulatory compliance. While OSHA doesn’t expect workers to be able to recall and recite all the data provided about each hazardous chemical in the workplace, effective training ensures employees are aware that they are exposed to hazardous chemicals, know how to protect themselves from those hazards – including how to detect releases of those chemicals—and where to get specific hazard information (e.g., from SDSs).
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.