Proper Hazard Communication: Avoiding Safety Offenses with a Chemical Management System

hazard communication
Every year, OSHA releases a list of top violations for the past twelve months. With hazard communication usually coming in at #2, what tools can help companies improve their standards?
Image source: Flickr CC user Adam Foster

A new year means new beginnings, new goals, and new resolutions. It also means taking a look back at the previous year to take stock of your successes along with areas that could use some improvement. OSHA seems to share this sentiment because every year, they release a list of the top 10 violations for the past 12 months. In fact, you could say that the announcement of this list has become something of an annual tradition.1

The list tallies safety citations handed out by the agency across all industries. It includes things like fall protection and general electrical issues. The items may not necessarily be surprising for those in the workplace, but many companies can avoid the listed pitfalls more often than not. That’s certainly the case for item #2 on the list: hazard communication.

Second place is a familiar position for hazard communication violations, since it usually comes in at that spot every year. In 2015, over 5,000 violations were issued to various facilities. Examples of citations belonging to this category include not properly informing employees about hazardous chemicals stored on-site, failing to train workers how to handle them safely, and not keeping a written hazard communication program. These may seem like minor things, but they can cumulatively contribute to unsafe work conditions and even death.2

Because hazard communication ranks so high on OSHA’s violation list, we can safely assume that many companies struggle with managing hazardous chemicals. These difficulties may stem from various areas, including large inventories, unwieldy paper-based systems, and lack of resources. No matter the reason, however, facilities still need to ensure that they create a safe work environment. Otherwise, they run the risk of failing compliance standards during an inspection as well as compromising employee and site safety.

The Role of Chemical Management in Maintaining a Hazard Communication Standard

Guaranteeing proper hazard communication in the workplace isn’t as onerous a task as it sounds. In many instances, any difficulties can be addressed with a chemical management system. Let’s take a closer look at the types of citations3 OSHA issues in this category.

  • Missing labels and safety data sheets: The most basic aspect of hazard communication is imparting that information to employees. Container labels quickly provide crucial information about the chemical while safety data sheets contain more details such as how to dispose of the material appropriately.
  • Hazardous chemical exposure: Another reason those container labels are so important is that they tell us whether the chemical is hazardous or not. If it’s hazardous, then employees know they may need to take precautions when handling and storing it.
  • Improper classification of hazardous chemicals: Classification of hazardous chemicals is necessary because it determines how they need to be stored. What types of cabinets should be used? Which chemicals should not be stored together? And how should those chemicals be stored? For example, you shouldn’t store flammable chemicals in a wooden container.
  • Failure to have appropriate protective measures in place: In addition to knowing the types of hazardous chemicals stored onsite, it’s also necessary to know what measures are required to protect worker safety. Does a laboratory need chemical safety hoods to handle a specific chemical? Does the facility have established procedures to handle spills and other emergency situations?

These issues can be addressed by a comprehensive chemical management. BIOVIA CISPro is a chemical management system that eliminates unwieldy paper binders by transitioning to digital cloud-based chemical data access. With BIOVIA CISPro, safety data sheets can be linked to specific chemical containers and accessed directly from within the platform. No longer will employees have to hunt down dusty safety binders and flip through information that has a high probability of being outdated. By making safety data sheets quick and easy to access, all employees can remain informed of potential hazards, precautions they need to take, and procedures they can follow should accidents happen.

Even though hazard communication ranks highly on OSHA’s top violation list, your facility doesn’t need to struggle with maintaining safety standards. If you’d like to minimize your company’s non-compliance risk, then please contact us today to learn more about BIOVIA CISPro or request a demo.

  1. “NSC 2015: OSHA’s Top 10 Violations for 2015,” October 12, 2015, http://ehstoday.com/osha/nsc-2015-osha-s-top-10-violations-2015
  2. “Frederick tire shop cited by OSHA for employee’s death,” January 6, 2016, http://www.timescall.com/ci_29352562/frederick-tire-shop-cited-by-osha-employees-death
  3. “Hard to hide: OSHA hazcom violations,” March 3, 2015, http://www.ishn.com/articles/100837-hard-to-hide-osha-hazcom-violations

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