The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed some amendments to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). A key purpose of the HCS is to ensure that employees know what chemicals they’re being exposed to and what potential hazards those chemicals present. The proposed amendments are intended to bring the HCS in line with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
These changes, if approved, will affect employees in a number of industries and occupations that handle hazardous materials in addition to those involved in their shipping and storage.
What would the proposed amendments change?
The amendments would modify the classification and labeling of myriad hazardous materials – including cleaning products, paints and much more that could present potential health and safety hazards. If the amendments are approved, businesses and other employers will need to update their training materials, safety data sheets (SDS), labeling and all communications with employees about these hazardous materials.
The amendments are a long way from being codified. There’s a hearing later this month where employers can weigh in on the proposed changes. In the meantime, businesses still have an obligation to ensure that their employees are aware of the potential hazards of the materials with which they’re working, that they’re fully trained in the safe use of these materials and that they have the appropriate safety gear.
However, if a worker suffers harm from exposure to a hazardous chemical or other material –- even if it appears to be something comparatively minor like skin or eye irritation — it’s crucial that they report that to their employer and get the medical care they need. These are the first steps toward getting workers’ compensation to cover medical needs and lost wages.