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Course 705 - Hazard Communication Program

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Employers must provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals.

Information and Training


Education is the beginning point for developing and maintaining a world-class HAZCOM program. This module focuses on communicating information about hazards and training employees to work safely while being exposed to those hazards. This module discusses basic employer responsibilities for effectively communicating the HAZCOM to employees.

When to Inform and Train

Employers must provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at:

  • the time of their initial assignment, and
  • whenever a new chemical hazard is introduced into the workplace and employees have not received initial training on that hazard.

1. When do employers need to provide employees with effective training on hazardous chemicals in their work area?

a. Within a month of initial assignment
b. Within 6 months of initial assignment
c. At the time of initial assignment
d. Within 2 weeks of initial assignment

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Employee Information

Reference OSHA and UN publications to educate.

Employees must be informed of:

  • The requirements of the HCS 2012;
  • Any operations in their work area where hazardous chemicals are present; and,

  • The location and availability of the written hazard communication program, including the required list(s) of hazardous chemicals, and SDSs required by the HCS.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the that discusses a nine-step process to evaluate whether to clean up a chemical spill or evacuate.

2. Employees must be trained on all of the following HCS 2012 topics EXCEPT _____.

a. requirements of HCS 2012
b. operations where hazardous chemicals are present
c. location and availability of the written HCS plan
d. investigating chemical injury accidents

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Training Topics

Information and training may be designed to cover categories of hazards (e.g., flammability, carcinogenicity) or specific chemicals. Chemical-specific information must always be available through labels and SDSs. More on this later.

Employee training must include at least:

  • Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area.

  • The physical, health hazards, simple asphyxiation, combustible dust, and pyrophoric gas hazards, as well as hazards not otherwise classified, of the chemicals in the work area;

  • The measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards, including specific procedures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as appropriate work practices, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment to be used.

  • The details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer, including an explanation of the labels received on shipped containers and the workplace labeling system used by their employer; the safety data sheet, including the order of information and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information.

The employer must also evaluate each employee's knowledge about:

  • the hazards in the workplace,
  • their familiarity with the requirements of the standard, and
  • the hazard communication program.

3. Each of the following is a topic that is evaluated for employee knowledge during hazard communication training EXCEPT _____.

a. the hazards in the workplace
b. when the hazard communication plan was created
c. requirements of the hazard communication standard
d. the hazard communication program

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Training Methods

Regardless of the training method, all employees should have an opportunity to ask questions.

It's important to understand that employees must be trained at the time they are assigned to work with a hazardous chemical. The intent of the training is to inform employees prior to exposure to prevent the occurrence of adverse health effects. Of course, this intent cannot be met if training is delayed until a later date.

Also, training requirements are not satisfied solely by giving employees the SDS to read. An employer's training program is to be a forum for explaining the who, what, where, why and when (the education) to employees of the hazards of the chemicals in their work area, but also how (the training) to work safely using safe procedures as required by the hazard communication program. This can be accomplished in many ways, including:

  • Classroom instruction
  • Interactive video
  • Hands-on demonstration

Regardless of the training method, all employees should have an opportunity to ask questions to ensure that they understand the information presented to them. Furthermore, the training must be comprehensible. If employees receive job instructions in a language other than English, then the HAZCOM training and information will also need to be conducted in that foreign language.

And, here's a subtle, but important point to remember: Additional training is to be done whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced into the work area, not a new chemical.

Below are a couple of examples that help to understand this requirement:

Click the link to see

Example 1:

If a new solvent is brought into the workplace, and it has hazards similar to existing chemicals for which training has already been conducted, then no new training is required. However, as with initial training, and in keeping with the intent of the standard, the employer must:

  • make employees specifically aware which hazard category (i.e., corrosive, irritant, etc.) the solvent falls within.
  • make the substance-specific data sheet available, and
  • properly label the new product.

Click the link to see

Example 2:

If the newly introduced solvent is a suspect carcinogen, and there has never been a carcinogenic hazard in the workplace before, then new training for carcinogenic hazards must be conducted for employees in those work areas where employees will be exposed.

4. Regardless of the training method used, HAZCOM training must include _____.

a. small group exercises
b. a 50-question exam
c. an opportunity to ask questions
d. videos and slides

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The employer must train their employees exposed to hazardous substances.

Retraining New Employees

It is not necessary for employers to retrain new employees if:

  • they have received adequate prior training by previous employers, employee unions, or other entities on specific hazards, procedures, or practices; and
  • they can demonstrate adequate knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to safely perform the new job.

New employees should be able show proof they received specific training on the hazardous substances to which they would be exposed in their new jobs. General information, such as OSHA Hazard Communication requirements, could be expected to remain with employees from one position to another. However, the employer is responsible for ensuring that new employees are adequately trained and are equipped with the knowledge and information necessary to conduct their jobs safely.

Remember, it is likely that additional training will be required since employees must prove they know the specifics of their new employer's programs such as the location of SDSs, details of the in-plant container labeling system, and the hazards of new chemicals to which they will be exposed. New employees must demonstrate (show and tell) adequate KSAs to their supervisors before being assigned to their new jobs.

5. How do new employees prove they have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to safely perform their new jobs?

a. Confirming they have done the job before
b. Telling supervisors they know how to do the job
c. Showing supervisors training certificates
d. Demonstrating the job (show and tell)

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Training at Multi-Employer Worksites

The training requirements also apply if the employer becomes aware via the multi-employer worksite provision of exposures of his/her employees to hazards for which they have not been previously trained.

Training Temporary Employees

Training temporary employees is a responsibility that is shared between the host employer and temporary agency.

  • Host Employer. The host employer is responsible for training on the company's HCS program including specific labeling, chemical hazards and safe work procedures in their workplace.

  • Temporary Agency. The temporary agency, in turn, maintains a continuing relationship with its employees and would be expected to inform employees of the general requirements of the HCS standard.

Contracts between the temporary agency and the host-employer should be examined to determine if they clearly set out the training responsibilities of both parties, in order to ensure that the employers have complied with all requirements of the regulation.

6. Who is primarily responsible for training temporary employees in the use of site-specific chemicals?

a. The temporary employee agency
b. The host employer
c. The third-party consultant
d. The local OSHA office

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Employers who fall under the scope of HAZWOPER must have either a written emergency response plan or an emergency action plan.

Training for Emergencies

A frequently overlooked portion of the training provisions is that dealing with emergency procedures. The scope and extent of employee training regarding emergency procedures will depend on what the employer expects employees to do when an emergency occurs:

  • Emergency Action Plan (EAP) Training. Employers who will evacuate their employees from the danger area when an emergency occurs, and who do not permit any of their employees to assist in handling the emergency, must provide training as required in 1910.38(e), Emergency Action Plans.
  • Emergency Response Plan (ERP) Training. Where employees are expected to moderate or control the impact of the emergency in a manner similar to an emergency responder, training under 1910.120(l)(1), Emergency Response Plan, is required.

7. What training is required when an emergency occurs if the employer evacuates all employees and does not permit them to assist in handling the emergency?

a. Emergency Responder Plan training
b. Fire Detection Plan training
c. Emergency Action Plan training
d. Emergency Response Plan training

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Controlled and Uncontrolled Releases

Emergency response to an uncontrolled release.

Controlled Releases

It's important to remember that OSHA standard 1910.1200, Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), only covers response to incidental hazardous substance spills that:

  • are controllable,
  • are limited in quantity, exposure potential and toxicity
  • present only minor safety and health hazards to the immediate work area,
  • can be easily cleaned up by employees, and
  • do not have the potential for becoming an emergency.

Training for responding to incidental spills is covered under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) and includes spill cleanup procedures and the use of appropriate PPE.

Uncontrolled Releases.

An uncontrolled release is the release of a hazardous substance from its container. If not contained, stopped, and removed, the release would pose a hazard to the employees in the immediate area or in areas in the path of the release, or from its by-products or its effect (such as toxic vapors, fire, over-pressurization, toxic gases, or toxic particulate).

If there is an uncontrollable release of hazardous substances, OSHA Standard 1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response (HAZWOPER), and its training requirements will apply. Remember, training required for emergency response workers is quite different than that required for hazardous waste site workers. See OSHA's Emergency Preparedness and Response page.

8. The Hazard Communications Standard covers response to incidental spills that _____.

a. are considered uncontrollable releases
b. are too large to control
c. must be handled by emergency services
d. do not have the potential to become an emergency

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again by returning to this page.

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