Safety Protocol for Hazardous Chemicals

When it comes to hazardous chemicals in the workplace, OSHA is very clear on the proper protocol for the labeling, handling and training required to work with these substances. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200, requires employers to implement a hazard communication program. The program must include labels on containers of hazardous chemicals, safety data sheets (SDSs) for hazardous chemicals, and training for workers. Each employer must also describe in a written program how it will meet the requirements of the HCS in each of these areas.

Details of the steps for a hazard communication program include:

  • Obtain a copy of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.
  • Make sure that someone has primary responsibility for coordinating implementation. The person designated for overall program coordination should then identify staff to be responsible for particular activities, such as training.
  • Prepare a written plan to indicate how hazard communication will be addressed in your facility. The written program must indicate how you will address the requirements of labels and other forms of warning; safety data sheets; and employee information and training, in your workplace.
  • Prepare a list or inventory of all hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Using the product identifer (e.g., product name, common name, or chemical name) to prepare the list will make it easier to track the status of SDSs and labels of a particular hazardous chemical. Importantly, the product identifer must be the same name that appears on the label and SDS of the hazardous chemical.


Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to provide labels on shipped containers with the following information: product identifer, signal word, pictograms, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and the name, address and phone number of the responsible party. When an employer receives a hazardous chemical from a supplier, all of this information will be located together on the label; however, additional information may also appear.

Employers may use the same label from the supplier or use label workplace containers with alternatives, such as third party systems (e.g., National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS)) in addition to the other required information. Any container of hazardous chemicals in the workplace must at a minimum include the product identifer and general information concerning the hazards of the chemical.

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Safety data sheets are the source of detailed information on a particular hazardous chemical. If you do not receive an SDS from the supplier automatically, you must request one. You also must ensure that SDSs are readily accessible to workers when they are in their work areas during their work shifts.

This accessibility may be accomplished in many different ways.  Some employers keep the SDSs in a binder in a central location. In the event of a medical emergency, hard copy SDSs must be immediately available to medical personnel.

Copies of the Hazard Communication Standard are available on OSHA’s hazard communication webpage.

For more information on developing a hazard communication program, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.

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