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Hazmat Awareness Training

Feb 18, 2015

It’s no secret: the times are changing. And with that, so are the ways employers keep their employees safe—especially with regard to hazardous materials. And due to the 2013 updates surrounding the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), hazmat communication training has become especially crucial in the workplace.

Improper hazardous materials training or outdated familiarity with hazmat training requirements pose a great risk of injury to workers or those around them.

According to OSHA, proper training under the Hazard Communication Standard requires:

  • Every employee to be trained when they are assigned to work with a hazardous chemical—not after they are exposed.
  • Taking more action than merely handing out data sheets and pamphlets. An employer's training program must explain to employees the hazards of the chemicals in their workplace, as well as how to use the information generated in the hazcom program.
  • Online hazmat training, audiovisuals, classroom instruction, interactive video, etc., are all viable training options and should provide a forum for questions and answers.
  • Additional training is needed whenever a new hazard is introduced.
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that employees are adequately trained and are equipped with the knowledge and information necessary to conduct their jobs safely.

Proper hazcom training must also cover the hazards of chemicals, appropriate protective measures and where and how to obtain additional information. A general understanding of what information is provided on labels, Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and how to access those resources when needed is also required for all employees, as well as an awareness of the protective measures available in their workplace, how to use or implement these safety measures and whom they should contact if an issue arises.

To make things a little bit easier and more streamlined, online hazmat training courses are available and meet these requirements. Turning to hazmat online training resources provides a cost effective and convenient way to ensure that every employee is on the same page when it comes to workplace safety.  After all, when working with hazardous materials, it’s better to be prepared than surprised.

OSHA Resources

OSHA provides printed and online resources that can work with a workplace safety training program to help  businesses prepare the workplace—and their employees—to stay safe when working among hazardous materials.

Some tips from their materials include:

Learning the Standard and Identifying Responsible Staff

What it means: Before an employee comes into contact with any hazardous materials, obtain a copy of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, become familiar with its provisions and make sure that someone has primary responsibility for coordinating its implementation.

Why it’s necessary: Becoming familiar with these provisions allows you to determine what is needed for compliance in the workplace. In order to ensure that you have an effective hazard communication program and address all of the necessary components, responsibility for implementation of hazard communication should be assigned to someone—or a responsible team—to coordinate.

Preparing and Implementing a Written Hazard Communication Program

What it means: Write a plan illustrating how hazcom will be addressed in your facility. Additionally, prepare a list of all hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Why it’s necessary: The hazard communication standard requires employers to prepare and implement a written hazard communication program that addresses labels and other forms of warning; SDSs; and employee information and training.

OSHA also asks employers to maintain a list of the hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Using the product name, common name or chemical name to prepare the list will make it easier to track the status of SDSs and labels of a particular chemical.

Ensuring Containers are Labeled

What it means: Keep labels on ALL shipped and workplace containers.

Why it’s necessary: The following information is required to be on labels by all chemical manufacturers: product identifier, signal word, pictograms, hazard statements, precautionary statements and the name, address and phone number of the responsible party. Having all of this information centrally located makes it easier for those who handle the chemicals after shipping.

As the employer, you may use the same label from the supplier or you may label workplace containers with alternatives, such as third party systems (National Fire Protection Association or Hazardous Materials Identification System ). All hazardous materials labels must include at least the product identifier and general information regarding the hazards of the chemical.

Maintaining Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

What it means: Create and/or maintain safety data sheets for each hazardous chemical in your workplace and make sure these sheets are easily accessible to employees.

Why it’s necessary: Safety data sheets are the source of detailed information on a particular hazardous chemical, so if you don’t receive an SDS from your supplier, it’s your job to request one. In case of an emergency, SDSs must also be readily accessible to workers when they are in their work areas during their work shifts.

If you choose to keep your SDSs in a binder, it’s best to do it in a central location. If you provide access to these sheets electronically, it’s imperative to train employees on how to obtain them both electronically and the hard copies, should the power be compromised. SDSs supplied electronically must also have a back-up system in place in the event of a power outage, equipment failure or other emergency. Hard copy SDSs must be immediately available to medical personnel should a medical emergency arise.

Evaluating and Reassessing Your Program

What it means: Review your hazcom program periodically to make sure that it is still working and meeting its objectives.

Why it’s necessary: An annual reassessment allows employers to take the steps needed to address any changed conditions in the workplace such as new chemicals and new hazards. It also gives employers and employees alike an opportunity to make sure everything is running smoothly and safely.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that employees are adequately trained and are equipped with the knowledge and information necessary to conduct their jobs safely. The right safety training and onsite reference materials are an effective way to start on the path to a safer workplace.


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