More than 32 million workers are potentially exposed to one or more chemical hazards; there are over 650,000 existing chemical hazards in more than 3 million workplaces, and new ones being developed annually. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires chemical manufacturers to evaluate hazards and furnish information through labels and more detailed Material Safety Data Sheets, which are to be included with shipments of their products. Failure to do so is a serious violation of the standard.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are also available at the workplace, and should be readily accessible to each work shift, as they are designed to instruct workers and emergency personnel on procedures for handling/working with certain substances in a safe way. This system catalogues information on chemicals, chemical compounds and chemical mixtures that contain potential hazardous materials. Labels, MSDS, and proper training are to be utilized to identify and prevent occupational injuries or health problems of workers. Because more comprehensive information is contained in the MSDS, it is important that each employee understands how to use them. Continuous training is also important, as there will be new employees, different chemicals, or different methods in use. MSDS binders should be kept up-to-date.
Employers and workers should determine the correct PPE to be furnished, such as foot protection, medical protective clothing, etc., depending on the type of work environment. Employees have the right to know what they are going to be exposed to, and the best way to avoid health or safety risks that apply.
At home, one should read labels on cleaning products or sprays, as they contain harmful chemicals, as well. Carcinogens, volatile organic compounds and phosphates are three types of such chemicals. They are contained in items such as oven cleaners, floor wax, laundry detergent, and air fresheners. Each type of chemical is related to different health risks and environmental damage.