Workplace Safety Environmental Transportation

Hazard Communications

Chemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (such as flammability, corrosion, and reactivity). OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is designed to ensure that information about these hazards and associated protective measures is disseminated to workers and employers. 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 (MSDSs). All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program, and must ensure that all containers are labeled, employees are provided access to MSDSs, and an effective training program is conducted for all potentially exposed employees.

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Fatal FactGo to the top of this page

Employee Dies of Pneumonia After Exposure to Chemical Vapor

Employee #1 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. Employee #1 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.


OSHA StandardsGo to the top of this page
§ 1910.1200  Hazard Communication 
The Hazard Communication Standard, §1910.1200 provides workers exposed to hazardous chemicals with the right-to-know the identities and hazards of those materials, as well as appropriate protective measures. When workers have such information, they are able to take steps to protect themselves from experiencing adverse effects from exposure. 
  • 1910.1200 - Hazard Communication.
    • App A -  Health Hazard Definitions (Mandatory)
    • App B -  Hazard determination (Mandatory)
    • App C -  Information sources (Advisory)
    • App D -  Definition of "Trade Secret" (Mandatory)
    • App E -  Guidelines for Employer Compliance (Advisory)
  • 1910.1201 -  Retention of DOT markings, placards and labels.
  • 1915.1200 -  Hazard Communication. See 1910.1200.
  • 1917.28 -  Hazard Communication. See 1910.1200
  • 1918.90 -  Hazard Communication. See 1910.1200.
  • 1926.59 -  Hazard Communication. See 1910.1200.

 Federal Register Preamble to the Hazard Communication Standard


Danger SignsGo to the top of this page
Chemical Storage Signs - Identify all your chemical storage equipment and areas
Written ProgramsGo to the top of this page

All workplaces where employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals must have a written plan which describes how the standard will be implemented in that facility.


Three of the top 25 OSHA Violations  are involve Hazard Communications:
  • No Written Plan
  • Inadequate Information and Training
  • No Labeling

The written program must be available to:

  1. Employee

  2. Employee representative

  3. OSHA representative


Develop an effective Hazard Communication Program by identifying,
explaining, and using the four practical elements of the rule for the purpose of informing employees of the hazards, identities, and protective measures to prevent injury or illness.

  1. Written Hazard Communication Program
  2. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
  3. Labeling
  4. Employee Information and Training

Written plan

Training RequirementsGo to the top of this page

Train your employees on:

  • An overview of the requirements contained in 1910.1200 - Hazard Communication Rule
  • Chemicals present in their workplace operations
  • Location and availability of our written hazard communication
  • 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 MSDSs to obtain appropriate hazard information

Hazard Communication Crossword

COMPLIANCE DIGESTGo to the top of this page

Compliance Forms
The standard requires a list of hazardous chemicals in the workplace as part of the written hazard communication program. The list will eventually serve as an inventory of everything for which an MSDS must be maintained.
Compliance ChecklistGo to the top of this page
Workplace Inspection
Compliance Publications Go to the top of this page
Frequently Asked Questions for Hazard Communication
Hazard Communication Standard. OSHA Fact Sheet (1993, January 1), 1 page.
Hazard Communication. OSHA Small Business Training Manual, Section 16, 4 pages. Provides a discussion of the Hazard Communication standard, training overheads and handouts, and a self inspection checklist.
The NACOSH Report to OSHA regarding Hazard Communication. (1996, September 12), 100-plus pages. Report from NACOSH to OSHA that contains comments and recommendations concerning hazard communication
Hazard Communication Compliance Guidelines. OSHA 3111 (1998), 32 pages, 103KB PDF.
Chemical Hazard Communication. OSHA 3084 (1995), 2.5MB PDF.

OSHA Directives Go to the top of this page

Search for related OSHA directives.

OSHA Interpretations andGo to the top of this page Compliance

Search for related interpretations and compliance letters.

Search for interpretations and  letters related to MSDSs. 

Review Commission and Administrative Law Judge Decisions Go to the top of this page
The Material Safety Data SheetGo to the top of this page
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 MSDSs. Employers must have an MSDS for each hazardous chemical which they use.




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