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Update on OSHA Rules for Labeling Hazardous Materials

As of June 1, 2016, OSHA expects businesses to update their labeling for workplace hazards to conform with international standards.

Hazardous materials include any substances that pose a health hazard (such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity) or physical hazard (such as flammability, corrosion, and reactivity). While you may not manufacture or use hazardous materials as your main business, most companies, even those in the service industries, have at least some hazardous materials on site.

There are several important reasons for the move to consistency in labeling hazardous materials. When labeling varies from country to country:

1. Employees become confused about what the various symbols mean and have difficulty figuring out the hazards involved.

2. A chemical may be identified as more (or less) hazardous in its country of origin than in the country where it ends up. Therefore, labels that are accurate in one country may be inaccurate in another.

3. Containers may have so much information that employees are unable to pick out the critical information.

The changes are described in revisions to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) of OSHA (29 CFR 1910.1200). They include the following consistent components for every label on a hazardous material:

* Product identifier

* Signal word—a single word (such as “danger” and “warning”) that indicates the relative level of severity of the hazard.

* Hazard statement –a hazard class and category and the degree of hazard (for example, “acute toxicity”). * Pictograms—a symbol or other graphic element that quickly conveys information about the hazards of the chemical.

* Precautionary statement—the measures that should be taken to minimize the hazard.

* Name, address and telephone number of chemical manufacturer, importer or other responsible party. For examples of pictograms, see the US Department of Labor OSHA Quickcard™.

OSHA stresses that “Workers have the right to know and understand the hazardous chemicals they use and how to work with them safely.” HR Compliance 101 can give your employees the training and information they need to recognize hazardous materials, understand the current labeling and work with chemicals safely.

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