Many businesses work with all types of chemical substances on a day to day basis. Many of those substances have dangerous properties that can cause injury or illness. Since 1983, OSHA has provided an extensive library of information and protocols as part of its EHS services to protect personal and environmental health. Good hazard communication in the workplace is an essential part of providing the best EHS solutions to keep all work environments safe.
Employees Have A Right to Know
OSHA keeps Safety Data Sheets (SDS) on nearly 1 million potentially harmful substances and chemicals. These sheets provide critical information about those substances, the hazards they present, how they should be handled, and what to do in the event of exposure. Even though some of these substances may seem harmless in many instances, employees always have the right to know what chemicals they are working with and around as well as how to protect themselves and promote environmental health.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) provides a standardized way for employers to administer regulated safety information to all personnel so employees understand what they are working with and how they can keep themselves, their workplaces, and the environment safer.
Improving Safety Through Better Communication
Before the HCS was developed, workplace safety was very difficult to regulate. Many employers offered only limited safety information and EHS services to their employees, if any at all, and much of that information was insufficient. Through the formation of the HCS, OSHA improved this situation and now requires that employers make SDS and other safety information available to all employees as well as have a hazard program in place to deal with chemical exposures and emergencies.
These essential EHS solutions have directly reduced workplace safety accidents and injuries. This critical information allows employees to understand health risks in their workplace so they can develop effective protocols for preventing accidents and injuries due to exposure. As such, it is mandatory that all employers provide the required SDS information to their employees and maintain hazard communication within the company.
Written Hazard Communication Programs Improve Safety
Every year, hundreds of new SDS's are created and edited. Keeping up with new safety protocols and updated handling and risk information is a monumental task, even for smaller organizations. Yet when companies fail to make this information available to their employees, they risk an unsafe workplace and could be liable for failing to protect employees. It is essential to have an effective hazard communication program where workers have access to the written SDS information as well as a documented company protocol promoting safety, and outlining how to handle workplace accidents. This data should be reviewed with employees regularly and updated as necessary, with updates announced to increase awareness.
As a critical part of EHS services, effective hazard communication in the workplace helps to create a safer workplace through greater employee education and recognition. When employees understand the proper use of the potentially harmful materials they may work with, companies can initiate appropriate EHS solutions that result in better compliance. Workplace environmental health and safety come about as a direct result of employee education about hazards and how to manage them.