Improving Hazard Communication in the Workplace
If you’re looking for ways to improve the overall safety of your facility, one of the best places to start is with an evaluation of your current hazard communication standards. According to OSHA, hazard communication violations are the second most commonly cited violations, as of 2012. In 2012 there were 4696 citations given in this one area alone.
Sadly, very little has been done to change this problem over the past several years.
Understanding how your facility communicates any type of hazard, and working on ways that can be improved, is an important part of keeping everyone safe. One of the best places to start is to review the OSHA regulation on this topic, which is titled, “Hazard Communication – 1910.1200.” This will give you all the requirements that you will need to follow in order to keep people safe, and avoid any citations.
Key Points in Section 1910.1200
After reviewing the entire section on this topic, you will want to go back and really focus on a few key points. These are some of the areas where most of the citations were given out, and also where some of the biggest risks exist.
The following key points will be great places to start when it comes to improving the way your facility handles hazard communication:
- 1910.1200 (b)(2) – This is the section that covers how you need to communicate hazards that apply to any chemical that exists in a way that employees could become exposed to it. This applies to both normal exposure, and exposure during a foreseeable emergency.
- 1910.1200(b)(3)(i) – In this section, it details the requirements a facility has concerning the labeling of chemicals that come into the facility. Specifically stating that the labels may not be removed or defaced.
- 1910.1200(b)(4)(iii) – This area explains in detail that employers need to provide employees with sufficient training on how to react to a potential chemical spill. This includes how to contain the spill, and how to stay safe and minimize exposure.
Of course, there are many other important sections throughout this area of the OSHA standards. Some of them do not apply to all industries, but they may still provide good information and general concepts that can be beneficial.
Taking the time to really identify which sections apply most to your facility is a great place to start any safety improvement efforts.
One of the easiest ways to improve the way your facility communicates hazards is by using safety signs. These signs can be temporary, such as floor signs (like these floor signs), or permanently attached to a wall or other area. Signs are a great way to quickly convey information to employees or visitors in the area.
Depending on the type of hazard you are attempting to provide information about, there is likely a set of standards concerning how the sign should be printed. Things like colors, for example, are very important in ensuring your facility is following the OSHA standards.
One of the biggest areas where a facility can improve safety is with labeling. Many different things in facilities need to be properly labeled to ensure people working with or around them are aware of particular risks.
For example, any container that holds any type of toxic or corrosive chemical needs to be properly labeled. The label will need to include things like the chemical name, risks associated with it, and possibly even how to safely clean it up. Each category of chemical will need a different type of label to alert people to the dangers.
You should also label things like pipes. Whether they hold water, chemicals, compressed air, or something else, it is always important to ensure everyone in the area is aware of what each pipe contains. This will help those who work with and on the pipes, but also for anyone who may be in the area if a pipe begins to leak or have other issues.
When it comes to safety labels, you really want to use them as much as possible, because they are an excellent way to quickly alert people to danger. They are also very affordable, especially if you have an industrial label printer (such as the LabelTac 4 PRO) within the facility that can be used.
This is one hazard communication option that many facilities forget about. They may use floor tape (like this) for some things, such as marking the floors where vehicles will drive, but then forget about its other potential uses. Some great ways you can use floor tape in your facility to improve hazard communication may include:
- Door Swings – Using floor tape to mark the areas where a door will swing when opened will help keep everyone in the area safer.
- Machine Movement – Marking off the area where a machine’s arm, for example, can move when engaged will help alert people to the danger before it occurs.
- Fall Risks – Applying floor tape to an area just before a ledge can help to ensure everyone knows that the risk is approaching. When they notice the floor tape, they can pay special attention to avoid falling.
Of course, it is impossible to come up with a full list of how any facility needs to improve on their hazard communications. While each facility is in a unique position, virtually all of them still have something that they are likely violating related to the Hazard Communication – 1910.1200 standards. Taking the time to review these standards, and making corrections as needed, will help ensure everyone is as safe as possible.
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