Keep Workers Safe and Avoid Costly Fines with Clear, Coherent Hazard Communications
By Lancaster Safety Consultanting
Last year, one of the largest automotive glass suppliers in the world – a publicly-traded company that supplies materials to all the major automobile manufacturers – appeared to be on top of the world. The company was worth tens of billions of dollars, with manufacturing facilities all over the world. A documentarian even made a major motion picture about the company.
That was quite a distinction. But last year, this company – which we’re choosing not to name – received a very different distinction. It was the recipient of a massive fine for safety violations.
Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA – issued this major glass manufacturer a fine of nearly $1 million. That was easily one of OSHA’s largest fines in 2019. And among the safety violations that crashed a hammer through the company’s glass operations were repeated and serious failures in hazard communications. Among them:
Not labeling multiple containers filled with hazardous substances, most egregious being a bottle filled with an unlabeled chemical;
Lack of a training manual for workplace electrical hazards
And perhaps the manufacturer’s most obvious violation of all:
Lack of a written hazard communication program.
The lesson here: Whether a company is small, with just a few employees, or a multinational manufacturing behemoth, everyone needs to follow hazard communication rules.
Here’s How to Keep Workers Safe and Avoid Costly Hazard Communication Fines:
1) Make sure that your company knows OSHA’s 1910.1200 Hazard Communication Standard.
This standard is important – and not just to avoid massive fines. Learning the 1910.1200 standard will help your employees know which hazardous chemicals are in your workplace, and how they’re used. Conveying this info – and sharing any updates at weekly meetings – will help to keep your staff informed and safe.
2) Implement a written hazard communication â€“ or “HAZCOM” â€“ program.
Regardless of your company’s size, a written HAZCOM program is required if there’s any possibility that an employee will encounter a hazardous chemical. Your HAZCOM program should list every hazardous chemical in your workplace, along with procedures for labeling chemical containers, identifying potential hazards, and outlining training protocols.
You’ll also need a Safety Data Sheet – SDS – log.
These SDS logs are designed to warn employees which hazards are associated with each chemical in your facility. That means every chemical needs its own specific SDS. These can be stored together in a three-ring binder, or in digital files. Either works, as long as the SDS logs are easily accessible to everyone on staff.
3) Train your employees.
It’s one thing to learn OSHA’s 1910.1200 Hazard Communication Standard, set up a HAZCOM program, and set up your Safety Data Sheets. You’ll also need to make sure that your company has someone on staff â€” or has set up a training program through a trusted safety partner such as Lancaster Safety – who will help to train your company’s workers. Your employees are required by OSHA to receive training on these important topics.
They also need to be trained in protective chemical measures, how to carry out these measures, and how to respond if anyone interacts with hazardous chemicals. These training sessions need to happen yearly for any employee handling chemicals.
4) Evaluate your program, data collection, training.
Make sure that your HAZCOM program is kept up to date by partnering with Lancaster Safety. We can help you review OSHA’s website for any updates regarding the 1910.1200 standard, and keep your records clear and coherent.
Don’t fall into the trap that one major glass manufacturer fell into. Follow these protocols to keep workers safe and avoid unnecessary fines.
Lancaster Safety Consulting Inc. is dedicated to helping its clients achieve a safe workplace through a world-class occupational safety and health program with onsite training. Lancaster Safety can be reached at lancastersafety.com/contact/.
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