Over the years, the hazard communication standard has changed in dramatic ways. See how in our detailed infographic.

Safety from chemicals in the workplace is much more than simple warning labels—though they are an essential aspect of the helping inform workers of dangers that are present. Learn how the hazard communication standard moved from the “right to know” law—to a more uniform and formalized communication process that is visual, written and very prescriptive. But most of all, there is now clarity.

Laws evolve. Regulations change.

One of the most important and essential laws that has evolved is the hazard communication standard from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—which is now known as 29 CFR 1910.1200 (g). It was revised in 2012 to become a more consistent and fully detailed standard that could be used the across the globe regardless of destination. To meet that need, OSHA adopted the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling or “GHS” for short.

More than 32 million workers—or just over 20 percent of the U.S. workforce—are exposed to dangerous chemicals at work with more than 650,000 chemicals present across 3 million facilities. Despite training, nearly 3 million nonfatal injuries occurred from chemicals in 2012 alone. Given the dangers in handling or being in proximity to toxic or flammable chemicals, the standard on the books was not enough.

The original law on hazard communication went in to effect in late 1983—but that did not mean that the information chemical manufacturers provided across the world was all the same—or more importantly, was clearly understood by workers handling dangerous substances. For companies and manufacturing workers alike, confusion reigned. Country-to-country standards were different—and what manufacturers were required to specifically inform workers in writing and in visual form as not uniform or did not fully detail all the hazards present—hence the need for a more reliable and consistent standard.

To learn more about the evolution of the hazard communication standard and what changed, check out our detailed infographic.

Hazard Communication Standard Infographic
llustration by T.M. Detwiler

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