Ronald Pitcher Ronald Pitcher

Target on Safety: The Basics of Hazard Communication

October 25, 2021

Chemicals are safe to work with if we work with chemicals safely. When we use chemicals as they were intended and follow all necessary safety precautions, we can maintain a safe workplace and prevent injury or illness.

Hazard communication is designed to do just as the name suggests—communicate hazard information to every employee. They must know what chemicals they are working with or exposed to, the hazards associated with each, and how to protect themselves. 

Hazardous materials are defined as items that have a physical or health hazard associated with them-- flammable, combustible, explosive or compressed gases for example. Materials that are carcinogenic, toxic, corrosive and/or irritating are considered health hazards. This definition captures many of the materials typically used in metal forming facilities, including components manufactured, by-products, cleaning supplies and others.

Hazard Determination

Who decides what is “hazardous” or not? That process, very scientific, is guided by strict federal requirements and has proven to be extremely reliable. Manufacturers of hazardous materials have the most information about their products and are required to provide this information to users of those materials. These manufacturers face severe penalties for failing to provide complete or accurate information through their Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Metal formers must maintain a list (inventory) of all of the materials that pose physical or health hazards. This helps to ensure that it has all of the necessary SDS. Your employees are an important factor in keeping the inventory current. Any time a new hazardous material comes into the company, ensure that it is added to the chemical inventory. Any employee bringing a new material into his work area should notify his supervisor to update the chemical inventory, if needed.

SDS: The Most Important Documents

SDS are the most important documents we have concerning the chemicals used at a company. These documents, prepared by the chemical manufacturer, informs the end-users about any hazards associated with the product. SDS must summarize certain information, including product identification, scientific information about ingredients, hazards associated with the product, incompatibilities, potential reactions, safe handling, and guidelines for storage and spills. The most important sections focus on first-aid requirements and personal protective equipment.

Supervisors should ensure that employees know where all SDS are located.  Employees should familiarize themselves with the SDS for any hazardous material they work with or may be exposed to in the workplace, to fully understand the risks and take appropriate precautions, and know how to find information quickly in the event of a spill or accident.

Labeling Requirements

Our first line of defense with any type of material is the label found on the product container. It is critically important that every container be labeled so it properly identifies the material inside. Labels must include:

•             Product identifier— The 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— A symbol inside a diamond with a red border, denoting a particular hazard classification.

•             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 from improper storage or handling of a hazardous chemical. 

•             Signal words—A single word—“danger” or “warning”--used to indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. "Danger" connotes more severe hazards, while "warning" refers to less severe hazards. 

•             Hazard Statement— A phrase assigned to each hazard category. Examples include “harmful if swallowed,” and “highly flammable liquid and vapor.”  


See also: Pitcher Insurance Agency, Inc.

Technologies: Safety


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