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Question of the Week: Communicating Unknown Hazards

Posted on 2/1/2011 by James Griffin

Q. When an employer discovers that a chemical product has a hazard that is NOT indicated on the manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), what should he or she do?

A. The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS: 29 CFR 1910.1200(h)) requires chemical manufacturers to assess the hazards of their products and prepare the MSDS accordingly. The MSDS must report all physical and health hazards that may appear during normal use and forseeable emergency situations.

When an employer discovers that an MSDS is inadequate or incomplete, he or she is not responsible for rewriting the MSDS. However, employers must inform their employees of the new hazard and provide them appropriate training and protective equipment.

Employers are encouraged to contact chemical manufacturers about hazards that are not accurately reflected on the MSDS. Chemical manufacturers are required to update their MSDSs when new information comes to their attention (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(5)).

OSHA has policies in place that explain how to address an inaccurate MSDS. See OSHA Directive 02-00-038 “Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard”.

Sources: OSHA letter of interpretation [December 22, 2008]

Tags: HazCom, osha, Safety Data Sheets

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