Hazard Harmony Between OSHA, NFPA, and HMIS

Three big players in the field of safety include OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), and the HMIS (Hazardous Materials Identification System). All three organizations aim to provide certain levels of protection to employees and people regarding safety and health hazards. However, OHSA has done some recent revisions to create the standard known as HazCom 2012 which includes changes from the previous standard HazCom 1994. This standard includes information and recommendations for label identification stemming from all three organizations. When describing the changes between the previous and most recent hazard labeling requirements, MSDS Online states:

“OSHA calls its revised standard HazCom 2012, and in it, one of the biggest changes is to labels on shipped containers. Under the old HazCom Standard, which OSHA now calls HazCom 1994, labels on shipped containers and workplace labels were performance based. That means OSHA didn’t say exactly what had to appear on the label, instead, it said what effect the labels had to achieve, and then it determined compliance subjectively, based on how well they achieved their goal – that goal being to successfully transmit hazard information to the end user.

Under HazCom 1994, a lot of companies used NFPA and HMIS systems to meet requirements of the standard. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind, NFPA and HMIS are voluntary systems, which have never been mandatory under the HazCom Standard.”

With the incorporation of HazCom 2012 comes specific training that needs to be conducted regarding the changes. If employees are not aware of the new changes and recommendations in place regarding hazard communication on labels, they are setting themselves up for noncompliance. Employees need to foster a general understanding about how all the elements work together on a label to create hazard awareness. Employees should also be trained on reading the labels to ensure proper storage of the chemical or hazardous substance, and also how to read the label to act accordingly if someone is injured by the particular hazardous substance. When referring to the changes and pertinent information on labels, MSDS Online states that:

“With GHS adoption, labels on shipped containers are more prescriptive, and include six standard elements:

  • Product Identifier matching the product identifier on the safety data sheet
  • Supplier Information including name, address and phone number of responsible party
  • Signal Word, either “Danger” or “Warning” depending upon severity
  • Hazard Pictogram(s), black hazard symbols on white background with red diamond borders that provide a quick visual reference of hazard information
  • Hazard Statement(s) that describe the nature of the hazard and/or its severity
  • Precautionary Statement(s) that provide important information on the safe handling, storage and disposal of the chemical.”

While it is true that the new HazCom 2012 involves more in depth information in regards to hazard labeling requirements, it is not too far-fetched from the original HazCom 1994. With some basic training, employees will be able to adapt rather easily to OHSA’s new HazCom 2012 standard and continue to embark on enhancing workplace safety.

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