When most people think of workplaces that house hazardous materials, they are likely to list factories, refineries, nuclear plants and similar industrial settings. But even a small office might stock potentially dangerous chemicals, such as bleach and other cleaning products.
“Whether you’ve got a tanker-load or just a small bottleful, a hazardous material in the workplace needs to be considered as a potential health risk,” said Benjamin Mangan, president of MANCOMM, a national publishing company that develops and distributes regulatory compliance and safety training material.
At every business level, big or small, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations apply to the use of, and exposure to, the chemicals and other substances found there. Following these regulations is an essential directive for all companies – and not just because they should stay compliant with government regulations. They also need to protect the health and well-being of their workers and communities.
“OSHA requires employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces to prepare and implement a written hazard communication program to identify dangerous substances present in the workplace,” says Mangan. “Employers must ensure that containers are labeled, employees are provided access to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical, and training is provided for potentially exposed employees.”
Small Business Hazard Communication
Employees need to know the identities and hazards of chemicals they are exposed to in the workplace. With this information, they can take part in their employers’ protective programs and also take steps to protect themselves.
In many cases, the hazardous materials found in small businesses are cleaning chemicals – and usually, they are consumer products, the same as those used in most households. These chemicals do not need to be included in a hazard communication program if they are used for the product’s intended purpose, duration and frequency.
If a chemical is used for other purposes – for example, if bleach is used full-strength instead of at a diluted strength given in the directions – it would need to be part of the hazard communication program. Other considerations include the length of time the product is used, as well as the frequency of its use. If it is used for a longer period than it would be at home, and/or more frequently, then it also needs to be part of hazard communication. The same applies if the business has more areas to clean than one would at home.
Businesses should keep a list of the chemicals they use and make sure there are procedures for:
• Container labeling.
• How MSDSs will be received and kept.
• Making this information readily available to employees.
The chemical container’s labeling can be the product label, as long as the chemical name and hazard warning are present. Businesses need an MSDS for each chemical covered by their Hazard Communication program, and there’s no trick to obtaining that information.
“Every label will have an address to contact, and most will have an informational phone number so you can call to ask for the MSDS,” says Mangan. “Also, many manufacturers list them on their websites.”
The Terminology of Hazardous Materials
Are you familiar with the terminology of hazardous materials? See if you can match up the following 10 hazardous materials terms with their correct definitions.
3) Material Safety Data Sheet
6) TECP Suit
8) Hazardous substance
10) HAZMAT team
A) An abbreviation for OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, legislation which requires employers to assess the hazards associated with the materials in their workplace and to inform workers of those hazards.
B) An abbreviation for OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, which in general, applies to hazardous waste facilities and their employees.
C) An abbreviation that refers to hazardous material that may pose unreasonable risks to health, safety, property, or the environment when used, transported, stored, or discarded.
D) An infectious agent that presents a risk of death, injury, or illness to employees.
E) A substance which, by reason of being explosive, flammable, poisonous, corrosive, oxidizing, irritating, or otherwise harmful, can cause death or injury.
F) An organized group of trained employees who work to handle and control actual or potential leaks or spills of hazardous substances, requiring possible close approach to the substance.
G) Printed material concerning a hazardous material to provide information to prevent and respond to potential emergency situations.
H) A substance which can cause cancer when a person has ingested or received exposure to it, either internally or externally.
I) A totally encapsulated, chemical protective full-body garment, constructed of protective clothing materials which encloses the wearer and a respirator.
J) An abbreviation for personal protective equipment, used to reduce employee exposure to hazards. Employers are required to determine all exposures to hazards in their workplace and determine if this equipment should be used to protect workers.
If you answered seven or more of the above questions correctly, good job!
“When it comes to safety, no one can ever be accused of being a ‘know-it-all,’” says Mangan. “There’s always more to learn, so you can never know too much.”
Since 1996, MANCOMM and its partner company, American Safety Training Inc., have been committed to helping businesses protect their workers by providing them with state-of-the-art safety compliance products and training. For more information, visit www.mancomm.com.
1.) H, 2.) A, 3.) G, 4.) B, 5.) J, 6.) I, 7.) C, 8.) E, 9.) D, 10.) F.