The New Hazard Communication Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has modified the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) now used in the United States. The modifications are designed to make chemical information and warning labels consistent with those in many other countries around the world and with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

The key reason for the integration is to ensure all chemicals manufactured or used in the United States are labeled so that information on use as well as precautions and warnings are similar around the globe. In other words, a cleaning worker using a cleaning chemical in India or China will have, know, and understand the same set of warning and hazard labels as a cleaning worker in North America. The ultimate goal is safety for the worker as well as building users.

While the biggest impact of the changes will fall on the manufacturers and distributors of chemicals, these changes will also affect those who use what OSHA classifies as hazardous chemicals, which, as mentioned earlier, includes some cleaning chemicals. OSHA defines a hazardous chemical as “any chemical which is classified as a physical hazard or a health hazard.”

One of the things facility administrators and cleaning professionals will note, as a result of these modifications, is that the traditional MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) is changing, with respect to the way they look, the terms they use, and what they are called. They are now known as Safety Data Sheets, or SDS.

Possibly the best way to discuss these changes and their impact on restaurant facilities is to start with what has not changed. Among other things, the new HSC continues to require that employers do the following:

  • Develop, implement, and maintain a written hazard communication program that includes a list of the hazardous chemicals known to be present in the workplace (facility) as well as methods the employer will use to inform employees of these hazards.
  • Ensure that labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals are not removed or altered.
  • Maintain Safety Data Sheets (SDS) on hazardous chemicals, and make them readily accessible to employees.
  • Ensure that employees are provided with training and information to protect themselves should an accident occur.