OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard is designed to ensure chemical safety in the workplace so that information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers. There are several ways that Hazard Communication impacts dental offices, most notably its training and MSDS requirements.
In the past few years, there have been big changes to how the Hazard Communication Standard works through a change called the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). Below, I answer some common questions about the Hazard Communication Standard and how the Globally Harmonized System will be changing it. If you have other questions about GHS, post them in the comments!
1. What is OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard and why is it important to dental offices?
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) is the regulation that is meant to keep employees safe at work. It is often referred to as the “Right to Know” regulation. More recently, you may have heard “GHS,” which refers to the recent modification of the regulation that has important compliance deadlines. This is also the regulation that governs Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), now called Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
A key component to safety is communication – letting employees know what to do if they are exposed to a product with a hazardous component. For example, what should they do if they get it on their skin? Most people would just “wash it off.” But, some chemicals react with water, which could make the situation worse.
Failure to comply with this regulation can result in daily fines of $5,000 to $7,000 per incident.
2. How have the new GHS regulations affected OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard?
GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System, and it means big changes for OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, specifically when it comes to MSDSs. Products cross borders more so today than ever before, and as a result, MSDSs do as well. The problem has been that different countries had different standards for MSDSs, so employers have been left with different types and formats of safety data, making it difficult to access information quickly and effectively. The biggest thing that dentists need to know about GHS is that it brings a new global standard for safety data, called Safety Data Sheets (SDS), which will be replacing MSDS.
3. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve encountered when it comes to Hazard Communication and GHS?
I’ve heard plenty of misconceptions about Hazard Communication. The most common one has to be about the way MSDSs and SDSs need to be stored. Offices are required to keep sheets up to date and readily available by OSHA, which really boils down to making them available to employees fast and easy. Historically, dental offices gather hard copies from distributors and manufacturers and store them in an MSDS binder, and the misconception has become that this is the way it has to be done. But this is the 21st century and OSHA has been clear: electronic libraries are a perfectly acceptable, and more efficient, method of keeping compliant. Electronic libraries can also save you money in the long run.
4. Could you share one last piece of advice for dental offices dealing with OSHA’s Hazard Communication?
Don’t let Hazard Communication and OSHA compliance overwhelm you. It can seem like a lot, but once you get the right tools and information, it can be a cinch. At the end of the day, it’s about keeping your team safe and equipped with the information they need to be safe. Talk with your Patterson representative to see what they can do to help you get started and go from there.
The flip side is that not being proactive can really cost you in the end.