In this video, we’re going to review the basics of hazardous communications as it pertains to commonly used chemicals here in the workplace. With this information at hand, you’ll be able to quickly identify hazardous chemicals and utilize them proper

What is HazCom?

So, what is HazCom? If you haven’t figured it out already, this acronym stands for Hazardous Communications in the workplace. Under the direction of OSHA, the standardization of all hazardous communications dates back to November of 1983. Prior to this time, all chemical manufactures used their own ways to communicate danger when using their products. This often created confusion with end-users, resulting in serious injury.

Following 1983, the hazardous communication standard was introduced to align the United States with the rest of the world’s leading chemical manufactures. Through the standardization of this process, millions of workers across the globe are now safely trained with proper handling procedures. This simple shift in communication has prevented countless workplace injuries that can occur from chemical reactions, fires, explosions, burns, and other long-term diseases associated with chemicals.

As an employee of Service Sanitation, you have the right to know and understand the hazards and identities of the chemicals you are exposed to each day.

Hazard Classifications:

The process of developing hazardous communications often begins during the classification process regulated by OSHA. During this time, chemicals are rigorously tested to identify any potential hazards that could occur from it. Once a hazard is identified, it’s properly classified by its physical and health hazards and it’s level of severity. Physical classes are given clear names, such as corrosive, flammable liquid and/or explosive. Whereas health classes include things such as serious eye damage, skin corrosion, and/or respiratory sensitization. Within each Class, the categories are then numbered with the most dangerous category labeled as category 4 and less severe hazards counting down from there, such as category 3 and category 2, until the hazard is no longer serious.

Detailed Descriptions: (SDS)

Once a chemical is classified, it’s then described in greater detail by writing down the results of that classification into a comprehensive document called a Safety Data Sheet or more commonly referred to as an SDS sheet. This 16-part sequential document highlights all of the relevant details about a chemical.

As an employee at Service Sanitation, you should be most familiar with section 1 of this document, which provides identification of the chemical, section 2, which highlights all the hazards, and section 4, where you’ll find an in-depth explanation for all first aid measure should they ever arise. You can also see additional sections for accidental release measures, proper handling and storage, fire-fighting measures, and proper exposure controls.

Please note, SDS books and reference sheets are available at each yard for viewing. There is also a copy of SDS information inside of each truck. If your truck is missing this information, please see your manager immediately so a new copy can be provided.

Hazcom Labels:

The final step in the core of HazCom is to provide useful information for the actual users of the chemical, at the time and place where they need that information. This is best achieved with container labeling. There are currently two different types of container labels associated with Hazcom, which include shipping labels and workplace labels.

Containers that leave a manufacturing facility need labels that closely adhere to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, or the GHS. The GHS requires a format that utilizes six basic elements. This includes a product identifier, signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and supplier information.

The Product Identifier is the name of the material as it appears on the SDS, along with the identity of any ingredients that contribute to the material’s health hazards. The signal word indicates the overall severity of the chemicals hazards. Typical words here can include danger, warning, or no label at all.

One of the easiest to read and most recognizable parts of a hazcom label is the pictogram. Pictograms are universal and can be easily identified, no matter the language you speak. Pictograms are in the shape of a diamond, outlined in red, with a black symbol in the middle. There are currently 9 pictograms designated by OSHA including explosive, flammable, oxidizing, gas under pressure, corrosive, acute toxicity, health hazard, serious health hazard, and hazardous to the environment. Whenever handling a chemical, it’s important that you always look to the pictogram and proceed cautiously.

The Hazard Statement provides a standardized and specific phrase describing the exact hazards of the material. The Precautionary Statement provides instructions for workers to protect themselves and respond appropriately to accidental exposure. Lastly, the Supplier Information includes the name, address, and phone number of the material’s supplier should you need to reach out with additional questions.

On workplace labels, employers may need to paraphrase this information due to a lack of space; however, these labels must include the Product Identifier, basic hazard information, and provide the appropriate information that workers need to be safe. It’s important to note that any and all containers containing chemicals found on Service Sanitation property or in our vehicle must ALWAYS contain a label. If you come across an unlabeled chemical, please re-label it immediately before using or contact your manager immediately.

Get to know the Product:

Employees who use chemicals often should be familiar with the information presented on a chemical's label before using. They should also be familiar with the appearance, odor, and any other physical characteristics of the product before using. This does NOT mean to stick your nose or your fingers directly into the product. That’s actually one of the worst things you can do. Instead, be alert for any strong indirect chemical odors that the product may give off and take notice to how it reacts with certain materials. If you should ever encounter an unmarked chemical while in the workplace, always treat it as hazardous until properly identified. Never attempt to use it until it’s properly identified and labeled accordingly.


Whenever handling chemicals, personal protective equipment should always be utilized. Appropriate PPE should always be selected based on the hazards of the chemical and an evaluation of the PPE's effectiveness at protecting you from those hazards. This can include things such as chemical-resistant goggles, face shields, gloves, chemical-resistant boots, chemical-resistant coveralls, and respirators. It should also be noted that PPE can have limitations. For example, protective gloves or clothing can rip or tear, or a respirator may malfunction. That’s why it’s always important to check your PPE, prior to handling any type of chemical.

Engineering Controls:

In addition to PPE, you can often utilize proper engineer controls to reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous chemical. This includes the use of ventilation equipment, an enclosed environment, or even simply a less hazardous chemical whenever applicable.

First Aid Measures for Exposures:

If exposure or contact to a hazardous chemical occurs, first aid information is always available on each chemical’s SDS sheet. This information can be quickly located under section four of the SDS sheet. Be sure to take it seriously and report the incident right away if someone is overexposed. Prompt first aid and medical attention can often prevent serious injury or illness.

For most chemicals, if there was direct contact with the eyes or skin, rinse with plenty of water. Eyewash stations can be found around the workplace, or a bottle of eyewash for drivers out in the field.

If hazardous chemical vapors, gases, aerosols, fumes, or dusts are breathed in, your first response should be to remove yourself or the victim from the area and find fresh air. You’ll then need to evaluate to see if emergency medical assistance is needed.

If hazardous chemicals are swallowed, your first reaction may be to drink water or induce vomiting. It’s important to note that this may NOT always be the best practice and could inflict more damage. The best approach would be to contact the poison control center or 911. You’ll also want to quickly locate the SDS for that chemical from a manager as it will contain the appropriate first aid information needed.

In conclusion, it’s important you always proceed cautiously with whatever chemical you may be using. In doing so, you’ll safely and effectively protect you and others around you from the dangers that can sometimes occur. For additional information on any of the chemicals we may use here, please contact your manager.