OSHA HAZCOM (Hazard Communication) Rules

OSHA HAZCOM (Hazard Communication) Rules

February 27, 2024

With the transition back to in-person work settings post-COVID-19, there's a heightened emphasis on cleaning and disinfection protocols. While maintaining a clean workplace is crucial, it's equally essential for employers to ensure their employees are informed about the new cleaning chemicals being utilized.

Cleaning and disinfection in the workplace often involve the use of various cleaning chemicals, some of which may be new to a specific work environment. Whenever a new chemical is introduced, it's crucial to adhere to OSHA HAZCOM (Hazard Communication) rules.

What are OSHA HAZCOM (Hazard Communication) rules?

OSHA HAZCOM rules, also known as the "right to know" law, ensure that employees are fully informed about any chemical they may be exposed to and understand the necessary steps to protect themselves.

What should employers communicate to employees about OSHA HAZCOM rules?

Generally, consumer products used in a manner consistent with typical consumer usage—both in frequency and duration—are exempt from the hazard communication program.

It is when the use of those consumer products exceeds normal usage that an employer must adhere to HAZCOM rules. For example, if an office worker uses a disinfecting wipe to clean their workstation that would be normal use.  But if that same worker used the product to clean 50 workstations daily, they must receive training on how to safely handle the product.

How to follow OSHA HAZCOM Rules?

Employers must maintain transparency with employees regarding the use of cleaning chemicals. Employees can obtain safety information about a product either from its label or the Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly known as the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Employers are obligated to keep an SDS for any chemical used beyond typical consumer expectations.

Key information available on labels or SDS include:

  • Signal words indicating the severity of hazards (Warning for less severe, Danger for more severe).
  • Hazards associated with the chemical (physical and health hazards).
  • Pictograms provide visual references for potential hazards.
  • Storage instructions.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements.
  • Disposal guidelines.
  • First aid procedures for accidents.
  • As part of their workplace HAZCOM program, employers should ensure employees know where safety data sheets (SDS) are kept, how to use them, and how to access them. Online access to SDSs is acceptable, provided the employees can access the information, and backup systems are in place in case of technical issues.

Below are some links to OSHA rules on chemical labels, Safety Data Sheets, and pictograms for further information.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3636.pdf

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3514.pdf

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3491QuickCardPictogram.pdf

Hazard Communication to Your Employees (Printable PDF)