Hazard Communication and Chemical Safety
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Many products that your organization uses on a regular basis, such as cleaning supplies, are more hazardous than you may realize. Hazard communication is designed to do just as the name suggests: communicate hazard information to each employee and volunteer. It’s essential to be aware of chemicals your staff is exposed to, the hazards associated with each chemical and how to protect those exposed.
Hazardous Material Defined
Hazardous material is defined as items that have a physical or health hazard associated with them. For instance, flammable, combustible or explosive materials are physically hazardous. In the same sense, materials that are carcinogenic, toxic, corrosive and/or irritating are considered health hazards. This definition captures many of the materials you may encounter in the workplace, including cleaning supplies, adhesives, solvents, paints and more.
Your first line of defense with any type of material is the label found on the product container. It’s critically important that every container be labeled so it properly identifies the material inside. Labels should include:
- Product Identifier: chemical’s name and a list of the substance(s) it contains
- Supplier Information: name, address and phone number of the chemical’s manufacturer or supplier.
- Pictogram: symbol inside a diamond with a red border, denoting a particular hazard class
- Precautionary Statement: one or more phrases that describe recommended measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical or improper storage or handling of a hazardous chemical
- Signal Words: single word used to indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label; the signal words used are "danger" and "warning;" "fanger" is used for the more severe hazards, while "warning" is used for less severe hazards
- Hazard Statement: phrase assigned to each hazard category; examples include “harmful if swallowed,” “highly flammable liquid and vapor,” etc.
In order for a hazard communication program to be effective, you must take responsibility for using the information provided in order to keep yourself and everyone in your organization safe.
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