By: Nancy Irwin
Sospes Safety Team Member

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Tips to Navigate OSHA’s Daunting Website

OSHA provides information about Health & Safety Topics on its website (http://www.osha.gov).  Hazard Communication is an example.  Sometimes it feels like TMI (too much information).  Fortunately, all the information is valuable.  The 2012 update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) provides a clear approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets.  We can learn more about the topic and make sure our programs comply on the OSHA website.  The sections  for HazComm include:

  • Safety Data Sheets
  • Labeling
  • Pictograms
  • Interpretations
  • Standards
  • Guidance
  • International
  • FAQ’s
  • Additional Information
  • Workers’ Rights

OSHA’s website is handy.  We can read the documents to understand the requirements.  In many cases, we have access to safety program templates and training modules. An excellent place to start is to read the Fact Sheet: “Steps to an Effective Hazard  Communication Program for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals” found in the Guidance Section.

Eep!  OSHA expects us to know how OSHA interprets the standard.  Standard Interpretations are letters written in response to how some aspect of or terminology in an OSHA standard or regulation is interpreted and enforced by the Agency. These letters explain the application of an established OSHA standard, policy, or procedure.  But they do not establish or revise OSHA policy or procedure or interpret the OSH Act. They must specifically cite the source policy or procedure document they interpret.  For example, OSHA issued 43 Standard Interpretations since the 2012 HazComm was published.  One interpretation response states that equipment with carbide tips requires Safety Data Sheets because the carbide dust can be released during equipment use.

The home page highlights current topics of concern, such as Prevent Heat Illness at Work,  and a subscription to Workplace Safety Reminders.

Another great resource is OSHA’s publication “Training Requirements by Standard,” found in the Standards bullet on the home page.  The document lays out training requirements for all OSHA Standards, including HazComm on page 105.

OSHA’s website allows us to look up safety information in the A-Z index or search box.  I use the A -Z frequently to clarify my understanding of OSHA’s standards.  The A-Z index provides all relevant information about an OSHA topic, including e-tools and the items I listed for HazComm.

Unfortunately, the search OSHA box lists 23,848 results (TMI!) when I search for Hazard Communication.  It provides a hit for every time the term Hazard Communication is used on the website. Don’t fear! Use my tips and tricks for places to start and it will feel less daunting in no time.

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