Know Your Haz: DOT Hazmat vs. OSHA HazCom

Posted on 10/30/2018 by Joel Gregier, CDGP

OSHA has plans to update its Hazard Communication Standard in 2019 to incorporate a more recent edition of the Globally Harmonized System for Classifying and Labeling Chemicals, or GHS. OSHA first adopted elements of the GHS into its HazCom Standard in 2012, requiring hazmat shippers to include GHS labels on shipped containers. Today, we look at some subtle differences in how OSHA and US DOT regulate similar “hazardous chemicals” and “hazardous materials,” and what it means for overall regulatory and safety compliance. 


When working with hazardous “things” in the workplace, employers and workers must maintain compliance with an array of safety regulations. Two of the more prominent rule sets are OSHA’s HazCom Standard and the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

While it would be nice if these two sets of regulations lined up perfectly, the truth is that they do not regulate the exact same “things.”

The HMR regulates “hazardous materials,” while HazCom regulates “hazardous chemicals.” 

While the two regulations cover many of the same hazards, there are a few key differences between the two. Here, we’ll point out some specific divergences between the two regulations. Keep in mind that this list is not all-encompassing.

Differences Between the Severity of Hazard

The HMR and HazCom (which uses the GHS classifications) regulate many of the same hazards, but sometimes to different degrees of hazards. In many instances, the GHS classifications will draw in more “minor” hazards. For instance, both the HMR and HazCom regulate:
  • Toxic substances, but HazCom includes Category 4 toxins.
  • Flammable gases, but HazCom includes Category 2 gases.
  • Corrosives, but HazCom includes Category 2 skin and eye irritants.

Hazards Regulated by HazCom, but Not the HMR


There are many hazards that are regulated by HazCom/GHS that are not regulated by the DOT’s HMR. This goes along with OSHA’s concern about chronic or long-terms hazards that the DOT does not include in its regulations.

HazCom regulates the following hazards that are not found in the HMR:

  • Respiratory/skin sensitizers
  • Germ cell mutagens
  • Carcinogens
  • Reproductive toxins
  • Specific target organ toxins
  • Aspiration hazards
  • Combustible dusts

Hazards Regulated by the HMR, but Not HazCom


There are actually a few hazards that the DOT HMR regulates that are not covered by HazCom/GHS. They include:

  • Marine pollutants.
  • Hazardous substances.
  • Elevated-temperature materials.
  • Infectious substances (which are covered by other OSHA standards).

Know Your Hazards

The important thing to remember is that the DOT and OSHA have different goals when it comes to their regulations. The DOT is concerned with transportation safety, while OSHA is in charge of workplace safety. So, while there is often overlap, their objectives may lead to different materials or chemicals being regulated.

It is your job as an employer or worker to make sure you understand these different hazards and be up-to-speed with how to manage these things safely.

New HazCom and Hazmat Safety Training Now Available for Managers and Employees

Designed for employees who handle or work around hazardous chemicals, these new courses will meet OSHA’s HazCom safety training requirement and DOT’s hazmat safety training requirement for hazards commonly found in general industry.

HazCom: Flammables and Combustibles
HazCom: Compressed Gases
HazCom: Corrosives
HazCom: Poisons/Toxic Substances

If your employees deal with more than one type of hazardous chemical or material, we recommend a more comprehensive HazCom training to address multiple hazards. Choose from the courses above or check out these two HazCom training options:

Hazard Communication
Managing Hazard Communication

Tags: communication, DOT, hazard, hazmat, osha, safety, shipping, training

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