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Hazard Communications

Hazard CommunicationsChemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (such as flammability, corrosion, and reactivity). It is important that workers know about these hazards and how to protect themselves from them. This is accomplished by requiring chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and to provide information about them through labels on shipped containers and more detailed information sheets called material safety data sheets (SDSs). All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces should prepare and implement a written hazard communication program, and should ensure that all containers are labeled, employees are provided access to SDSs, and an effective training program is conducted for all potentially exposed employees.

Employee Dies of Pneumonia After Exposure to Chemical Vapor

An employee and a coworker were in a maintenance shop near a vessel that was being cleaned when a cloud of acidic vapors from the vessel surrounded the shop. Both employees inhaled the gas. The employee was recovering approximately one month after his initial exposure when he suffered a relapse and died of pneumonia complicated by a staph infection. The coworker recovered fully.

Hazardous substances can enter the body in four ways: inhalation, ingestion, absorption and injection. Based on the particular chemical, it may enter the body from one or more of these methods.

Inhalation takes chemicals into the nose or mouth, down the windpipe, and into the lungs. Some chemicals become trapped in the lungs. Others exit while exhaling. However, many chemicals can pass from the lungs and into the bloodstream. Gases, fumes, and tiny solid particles are most commonly inhaled.

Ingestion occurs when you swallow something that ends up in the stomach. From the stomach, many chemicals enter the intestines where they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Tiny solid particles and liquids can be ingested.

Absorption occurs when chemicals contact the skin. From the skin, the chemical can also enter the bloodstream. Liquids and gases can be absorbed through body surfaces.

Injection is when chemicals penetrate the body through a wound, cut, or puncture of the skin. Gases under high pressure can cut skin tissue and inject chemicals into the body.

Danger Signs

Post Danger Signs to warn workers of hazards.

  Corrosive Avoid Contact

  Hazardous Chemicals




  Repirator Required

Danger Signs

Written Programs

All workplaces where employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals should have a written plan which describes how to identify and safely handle them.

1. Written Hazard Communication Program

2. Material Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

3. Labeling

4. Employee Information and Training

Written Plan

Training Suggestions

Train your employees on:

Chemicals present in their workplace operations
Location and availability of our written hazard communication program
Physical and health effects of the hazardous chemicals
Methods and observation techniques used to determine the presence or release of hazardous chemicals in the work area
How to reduce or prevent exposure to these hazardous chemicals through use of control/work practices and personal protective equipment
Steps the enterprise has taken to reduce or prevent exposure to these chemicals
Safety emergency procedures to follow if the employee is exposed to these chemicals
How to read labels and review SDSs to obtain appropriate hazard information

Compliance Digest

Chemical Industry

Create a list of hazardous chemicals in your workplace as part of the written hazard communication program. The list will eventually serve as an inventory of everything for which an SDS must be maintained.

Chemical Inventory List

Compliance Checklist

Workplace Inspection

The Material Safety Data Sheet

Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to obtain or develop a material safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Distributors are responsible for ensuring that their customers are provided a copy of these SDSs. Employers must have an SDS for each hazardous chemical which they use.

Health Hazard Chart

Glossary of Chemicals


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