December 1 is the training deadline for the new OSHA Hazard Communication standard. According to OSHA, about 43 million workers will be affected by the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which now is aligned with the international Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
Effective training on the new OSHA hazard communication standard is important to both employers and workers. Workers have a right and a need to know and understand the materials they are handling. Proper use — established by effective training — is guaranteed to prevent accidents. Astute employers know that after the Dec. 1 deadline, the potential for stepped-up hazcom inspections is sure to increase. Effective training will ensure that employers have no reason to be penalized.
What does effective training look like for the OSHA hazard communication standard? Here are some best practices to put you and your employees on the path to training compliance!
Your training materials must be clearly presented, complete, accurate, and interesting. Yes, OSHA does provide lots of content, but we suspect you've looked at it and thought, "This could be more exciting." Run with that feeling, and customize materials for your unique workforce. HNI offers a downloadable slide deck on hazard communication training. This could be a good jumping-off point for your firm!
Obviously all the information on materials covered in GHS is important. Ignoring even one category could be injurious. But let's be realistic: Some workplaces never will be exposed to certain hazardous materials. That being the case, focus on teaching employees the specific pictograms and hazard warning statements that they will come in contact with. Manage the risks you're most likely to encounter.
Telling your employees about the new HCS is good. Telling them and letting them practice applying that knowledge is even better! Provide workers with learning exercises that require them to go through a sample safety data sheet to find specific information. Make them practice this task several times, looking for different information each time. You'll be more confident of their decision-making skills if they've exercised that HCS knowledge before a critical situation occurs.
So if telling your employees about HCS is good, and telling them and letting them practice their HCS skills is better, best is when you tell, practice, and reinforce the material. Keep the hazcom standards fresh in workers' brains with posters, booklets, cards for wallets, and reminders in the company newsletter or website. Following up with employees is key to getting your organization to smoothly adopt GHS. Soon the standards will become second nature to your safety-minded culture.
Keep in mind that learning the GHS rules is like studying another language. There are many pictograms to master — and then learn to tell apart. It also will take practice to know the hazards. A well-placed refresher document or poster will help the campaign.
What other tips can you share about training for the new hazcom standards? Please share in comments!