The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) or HazCom is a regulation [29 CFR § 1910.1200] mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that says that companies producing and using hazardous materials must provide employees with information and training on the proper handling and use of those materials. The premise behind HCS is that employers and employees have the right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to and what precautions they can take to protect themselves.
All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program and must ensure that all containers are labeled, employees are provided access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and an effective training program is conducted for all potentially exposed employees.
On farms, hazard communication for workers and handlers must include the following information:
- Location and description of areas where pesticides are applied
- Specific information about the pesticides, including their active ingredients, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration numbers, pesticide labels, and the SDS
- How to understand posted warning signs and follow directions
- Sources of pesticide exposure (water, soil, plants, equipment, etc.)
- Different ways pesticides can enter the body (swallowing, breathing, skin and eyes)
- Signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning
- Entry-restrictions related to a pesticide application
- Methods to reduce pesticide exposure and prevent take-home exposures
- Emergency first aid for pesticide exposures
- Emergency decontamination procedures
- Instructions to seek medical attention if poisoned, injured or made ill by pesticides
- Location and phone number for a nearby medical facility that can provide emergency medical treatment
The intent is to have information prior to exposure to prevent the occurrence of adverse health effects. The training provisions of the HCS are not satisfied solely by giving employee the SDSs to read. An employer's training program is to be a forum for explaining to employees not only the hazards of the chemicals in their work area, but also how to use the information generated in the HazCom program.
This can be accomplished in many ways (audiovisuals, classroom instruction, interactive video), and should include an opportunity for employees to ask questions to ensure that they understand the information presented to them. Training need not be conducted on each specific chemical found in the workplace, but may be conducted by categories of hazard (e.g., carcinogens, sensitizers, acutely toxic agents) that are or may be encountered by an employee during the course of his duties. The training must also be comprehensible. If the employees receive job instructions in a language other than English, then the training and information to be conveyed under the HCS will also need to be conducted in a foreign language.
For more information on HCS, visit https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/
HazCom Worker Compliance Training Videos -- English and Spanish
HazCom OSHA Training -- Spanish