Understanding OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard

a row of blue oxidizing gas containers

The OSHA Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard is a set of regulations aimed at protecting employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace. It requires employers to identify and communicate the potential hazards associated with the chemicals used in their workplace. The HazCom Standard applies to a wide range of industries and workplaces, including manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and more.

Compliance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard 1910.1200 is crucial for ensuring the safety of employees and preventing accidents and illnesses caused by chemical exposure. By providing clear and concise information about the potential hazards of chemicals in the workplace, employers can help employees avoid dangerous situations and take appropriate safety precautions.

This article provides an overview of the key requirements of the HazCom Standard and can serve as a useful resource for employers and employees alike.

Scope of the HazCom Standard

The scope of the HazCom Standard outlines the types of workplaces, chemicals, and situations covered by the standard. Understanding the scope of this regulation is crucial for employers and employees to ensure compliance and maintain a safe workplace. The following are the four key aspects of the HazCom Standard:

Who is Covered by the HazCom Standard?

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard covers all employers in the United States who use hazardous chemicals in their workplaces, including private sector employers and state and local government agencies. It also applies to employees who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

What Chemicals are Covered by the HazCom Standard?

The HazCom Standard covers all hazardous chemicals, including those produced in-house and those purchased from suppliers. A hazardous chemical is defined as any substance that poses a physical or health hazard, including chemicals that are flammable, explosive, reactive, toxic, or carcinogenic. Examples of hazardous chemicals include cleaning agents, solvents, pesticides, and many more.

Exceptions to the HazCom Standard

There are some exceptions to the HazCom Standard, including chemicals used in small quantities, such as laboratory samples or consumer products. However, these exceptions have specific requirements that must be followed to ensure safety.

Other Regulations that Cover Hazard Communication

In addition to the HazCom Standard, there are other regulations that cover hazard communication, such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for labeling and transporting hazardous materials. When it comes to chemical classification and hazard communication, the standard also aligns with the Globally Harmonized System of Chemical Classification and Labeling (GHS).

Overall, understanding the scope of the HazCom Standard is essential for ensuring compliance and maintaining a safe workplace. Employers must identify and communicate potential hazards associated with chemicals in the workplace, and employees must be trained to recognize and avoid dangerous situations.

Labels and Other Forms of Warning

Labels and other forms of warning are critical aspects of the HazCom Standard, as they communicate vital information about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. The following are the key aspects of labels and other forms of warning required by the HazCom Standard:

Types of Labels Required Under the HazCom Standard

The HazCom Standard requires that all hazardous chemical containers be labeled with specific information, including the product identifier, signal word, hazard statement(s), precautionary statement(s), and pictogram(s). Labels must be legible, prominently displayed, and written in English. The specific label requirements depend on the type of container, but they typically include bottles, drums, and bags.

Requirements for Label Information

The label information required under the standard must be accurate, concise, and specific to the hazards associated with the chemical. The product identifier must be the same as the one used on the safety data sheet, and the signal word must indicate the level of hazard, either "danger" or "warning." Hazard statements describe the nature of the hazard, and precautionary statements provide instructions on how to minimize or prevent exposure. Pictograms provide a visual representation of the hazard.

Additional Forms of Warning

In addition to labels, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requires that other forms of warning be used to communicate the hazards associated with chemicals. These may include placards, signs, posters, and other methods of communication, depending on the specific workplace and hazard.

Overall, all hazardous chemicals in the workplace must be properly labeled, and employees must be trained to recognize and respond to the warning signs of hazardous materials.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are a crucial component of the HazCom Standard. It is a document that provides detailed information about a hazardous chemical, including its physical and chemical properties, health and safety hazards, and emergency response procedures. SDSs are intended to provide employees with the information they need to safely handle and use hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Information Required on SDS

The HazCom Standard requires that SDSs include specific information, such as the product identifier, hazard classification, composition information, first-aid measures, fire-fighting measures, and handling and storage instructions. SDSs must also include information on how to respond to accidental spills or exposures, as well as the name, address, and phone number of the chemical manufacturer or importer.

Maintaining and Updating SDS

Employers are responsible for obtaining and maintaining SDSs for all hazardous chemicals in the workplace. SDSs must be readily accessible to employees at all times, and employers must ensure that they are updated whenever new information becomes available. Employers may need to request updated SDSs from chemical manufacturers or importers to ensure that the most current information is available.

SDSs are critical for ensuring the safe handling and use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Employers must ensure that SDSs are readily available, up to date, and that employees are trained on how to read and interpret the information provided on them.


Training is an essential component of the HazCom Standard. Both employers and employees have responsibilities when it comes to HazCom training.
The following are the key aspects of HazCom training:

Employer Responsibilities for HazCom Training

Employers are responsible for providing employees with HazCom training, which must include information on the hazards of chemicals in the workplace, how to read and interpret labels and SDSs, and safe handling and use procedures. Employers must also ensure that employees receive training whenever new hazards are introduced into the workplace.

Employee Responsibilities for HazCom Training

Employees are responsible for attending HazCom training, asking questions if they do not understand something, and applying the knowledge and skills learned during training to their work. Employees must also inform their employer if they discover new hazards or have concerns about the safety of a chemical.

Content of HazCom Training

HazCom training must cover several topics, including hazard recognition, chemical labeling, SDSs, and safe handling and use procedures. The training should also cover emergency response procedures, including what to do in the event of accidental spills or exposures. Employers may also choose to include additional topics, such as the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).


OSHA is responsible for enforcing the HazCom Standard in the workplace. This includes conducting inspections and investigations to ensure that employers are complying with the Standard's requirements. OSHA inspectors may review written hazard communication programs, inspect workplace labels and SDSs, and interview employees to ensure that they have received the required training.

Employers who fail to comply with the HazCom Standard can face significant penalties. These penalties may include fines, citations, and even criminal charges in some cases. The amount of the penalty depends on the severity of the violation and the employer's history of non-compliance.

Nevertheless, employers have the right to contest OSHA citations and penalties. The appeals process involves several steps, including filing a notice of contest, participating in an informal conference, and requesting a formal hearing before an administrative law judge. If an employer is not satisfied with the outcome of the hearing, they may file an appeal with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Safeguarding Worker’s Health and Safety

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard is a critical regulation that helps protect workers from hazardous chemicals in the workplace. By requiring employers to develop and implement a comprehensive hazard communication program, the Standard ensures that workers have access to the information they need to work safely. Employers must also provide appropriate training, maintain accurate SDSs and labels, and comply with enforcement efforts.

Overall, the HazCom Standard plays a crucial role in safeguarding workers' health and safety, and it is essential that employers understand and comply with its requirements.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.