Hazard Communication Standard

What is Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom)?

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), or "HazCom," is a set of regulations that tell employers how they must inform employees about hazards of chemicals used in the workplace. HazCom requires us to have a HazCom Program which includes employee training, access to information about chemical products used in the workplace, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), and a written Hazard Communication Plan. Each of these is discussed in a bit more detail below.

Employee Training

General introductory HazCom training is provided by the Safety & Workers' Compensation Office during New Employee Training run by Human Resource Services. Job-specific HazCom training is provided by the employee's supervisor, with assistance from the Safety & WC Office as needed. HazCom training must be provided before you work where exposure to hazardous chemicals could occur. Annual refreshers are not required, but retraining is required any time the hazards change.

Access to Information about Chemical Products

There are three basic kinds of information that the HazCom standard requires:

  1. Each shop or department must keep an up-to-date chemical inventory.
  2. Each shop or department must maintain Material Safety Data Sheets, or MSDSs.
  3. Each container must be labeled in such a way that employees can look up the MSDS for the product inside that container.

MSDSs are a kind of "fact sheet" about chemical products. They contain information about the safe use and handling of the product, including what kind of personal protective equipment to wear when handling the product and what to do in case of overexposure, a spill, or fire. OSHA requires virtually all chemical products used in the workplace to have an MSDS immediately available to employees.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is equipment worn by employees to protect themselves from chemical or other hazards. Common examples include safety glasses, goggles, gloves, steel-toed shoes, slip-resistant shoes (e.g. for food service workers and housekeepers), hardhats, and respirators. Read more about the North Carolina Office of State Personnel policies on PPE and the PPE policy specific to App State.

By law, employers must first try to find a way to actually remove the hazard before deciding to use PPE. For example, substitution with a less-hazardous chemical or adding extra ventilation must be tried before deciding that an employee should wear a respirator. The University Industrial Hygienist can provide valuable assistance in deciding when PPE is appropriate and if so, selecting the proper kind and training employees on its use. The wrong kind of PPE can give people a false sense of security and can actually increase their chances of getting hurt or sick from work.

Written HazCom Program

App State's written HazCom Program is contained in Policy 6 in the App State Resource Manual. This plan includes details on who is responsible for what with regards to chemical safety in non-laboratory workplaces.

Does HazCom Apply to Me?

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, or "HazCom," applies to all employees who use chemical products, unless the products meet all of the following four requirements:

  1. General household or office product
  2. Used for its intended purpose
  3. Used in small quantities
  4. Used in a manner that is incidental to your work (i.e. infrequently, for short periods of time, and not one of your job duties)

How Can I Find Out More?

To help you decide if HazCom applies to you, use the App State MSDS Checklist. The checklist can also help you stay in compliance with App State policies and HazCom Standard requirements related to MSDSs.

For detailed, App State-specific information on how to get and maintain MSDSs, see the MSDS FAQ Sheet.

For a quick summary of labeling requirements for containers, see Labeling Secondary Containers.

You can download a copy of the OSHA HazCom Standard and find much more information about the standard from the OSHA website. You can view the N.C. Office of State Personnel workplace requirements here.

If you have questions that were not answered above, email the Industrial Hygeine Manager or call 828-262-4008.