sample program
hazardous chemical list
msds requests
employee training
haz com standard
program audit
state plan states
OSHA	consultation programs

What the Standard Requires
How to Comply with the Standard


About 32 million workers are potentially exposed to one or more chemical hazards. There are an estimated 575,000 existing chemical products, and hundreds of new ones are being introduced annually. This poses a serious problem for exposed workers and their employers. Chemical exposure may cause or contribute to many serious health effects such as heart ailments, kidney and lung damage, sterility, cancer, burns, and rashes. Some chemicals may also be safety hazards and have the potential to cause fires and explosions and other serious accidents.

Because of the seriousness of these safety and health problems, and because many employers and employees know little or nothing about them, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued in 1983 a rule called "Hazard Communication" that applies to employers in the manufacturing sector of industry. The scope of the rule was expanded in 1987 to include employers in the non-manufacturing sector. In 2012, the rule was revised to conform to the United Nation's Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). See Haz Com Standard for a copy of the final rule promulgated in February of 2012.

The basic goal of the standard is to ensure that employers and employees know about chemical hazards and how to protect themselves. This knowledge, in turn, should help to reduce the incidence of chemical source illnesses and injuries.

What the Standard Requires

The Hazard Communication Standard establishes uniform requirements to assure that the hazards of all chemicals imported into, produced, or used in US workplaces are evaluated, and that the resultant hazard information and associated protective measures are transmitted to affected employers and potentially exposed employees.

Chemical manufacturers and importers must convey the hazard information they learn from their evaluations to downstream employers by means of labels on containers and safety data sheets (SDSs). In addition, all covered employers must have a hazard communication program to get this information to their employees through labels on containers, SDSs, and training.

This program ensures that all employers receive the information they need to inform and train their employees properly and to design and put in place employee protection programs. It also provides necessary hazard information to employees, so they can participate in, and support, the protective measures in place at their workplaces.

How to Comply with the Standard

The following steps should aid you in complying with the standard and in developing your hazard communication program.

Read the standard
  • Make sure you understand the provisions of the standard.

  • Know your responsibility as an employer.
List the hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
  • Walk around the workplace, read all container labels, and list the identity of all materials that may be hazardous; the manufacturer's product name, location, and telephone number; and the work area where the product is used. Be sure to include hazardous chemicals that are generated in the work operation but are not in a container (e.g., welding fumes).

  • Check with your purchasing department to ensure that all hazardous chemicals purchased are included on your list.

  • Review your list and determine whether any substances are exempt (see paragraph (b) of the rule for exemptions).

  • Establish a file on hazardous chemicals used in your workplace, and include a copy of the latest SDSs, and any other pertinent information.

  • Develop procedures to keep your list current. When new substances are used, add them to your list.
Obtain safety data sheets for all chemical substances.
  • If you do not have an SDS for a hazardous substance in your workplace, request a copy from the chemical manufacturer, distributor, or importer as soon as possible. (Refer to SDS Requests for a sample letter requesting an SDS). An SDS must accompany or precede the shipment and must be used to obtain identifying information such as the chemical name and the hazards of a particular substance.

  • Review each SDS to be sure that it is complete and clearly written. The SDS must contain the physical and chemical properties of a substance, as well as the physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control measures. (Refer to SDSs for a sample SDS and other information).

  • If the SDS is incomplete or unclear, contact the manufacturer or importer to get clarification on the missing information.

  • Make sure the SDS is available to employees, designated representatives, and to the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health.
Make sure that all containers are labeled.

The manufacturer, importer, or distributor is responsible for labeling containers, but the employer must adhere to the following:

  • Ensure that all containers of hazardous substances in the workplace are labeled, tagged or marked and include the identity of the hazardous chemical, and the appropriate hazard warnings. Container labels for purchased chemicals must also include the name and address of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party.

  • Check all incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals to be sure that they are labeled.

  • If a container is not labeled, obtain a label or the label information from the manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party or prepare a label using information obtained from these sources. Employers are responsible for ensuring that containers in the workplace are labeled, tagged or marked.

  • Do not remove or deface existing labels on containers unless the container is immediately marked with the required information.

  • Instruct employees on the importance of labeling portable receptacles into which they have poured hazardous substances. If the portable container is for their immediate use, then the container does not have to be labeled.
Develop and implement a written hazard communication program.

This program must include:

  • Container labeling and other forms of warnings;

  • Safety Data Sheets;

  • Employee training based on the list of chemicals, SDSs, and labeling information; and,

  • Methods for communicating hazards and protective measures to employees and others.

The following sections of this kit will discuss each of these steps in more detail and provide you with samples of the material discussed as well as lists of products, services, and other resources.

Program Implementation Checklist (PDF)