To better protect workers from hazardous chemicals, the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA has revised its Hazard Communication Standard to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). While the original Hazard Communication Standard, HCS 1983, was commonly referred to as the “Employee Right to Know,” the revised standard now provides for the “Employee Right to Understand.” With the goal of increasing worker comprehension about the hazards in their work environment, the revised standard requires companies to employ the use of a standardized format for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), as well as new labeling elements for chemicals. OSHA is rolling out this change in phases over the next several years, culminating in a final deadline of June 1, 2016.
New Requirements Aimed at Healthcare Worker Safety
The first compliance deadline is December 1, 2013. By this time, all facilities must provide training on new chemical label elements and safety data sheets. In response to this rule, HealthStream has teamed up with MAXCOM to offer 19 GHS specific training modules that focus on every class of chemical an employee might come across in their working environment.
To address the enormous amount of chemicals used in hospitals, OSHA amended the rule to allow chemical training to be provided by groups of chemicals. They write, “where there are large numbers of chemicals, or the chemicals change frequently, you will probably want to train generally based on the hazard categories.”
Hazardous Chemicals Are Common in Health Care Facilities
Chemicals in use in the healthcare environment may be hazardous due to potential for toxicity, corrosiveness, and reactivity. In addition to the usual routes of exposure by inhalation, ingestion, skin and eye contacts, a health care provider can also inadvertently self-inject a toxic drug intended for a patient.
These groups of chemicals include:
Less hazardous products can be substituted for many though not all hazardous chemical products in health care facilities. For example:
Although heath care facilities will never be free of hazardous chemicals, it is increasingly possible to use safer alternatives and better procedures to prevent exposure.
MAXCOM’s GHS Training Library provides a basic overview of the hazards associated with every class of chemical a healthcare employee could typically be exposed to and how an exposure to these chemicals could affect him/her in the course of performing their everyday workplace duties. Additionally, this training provides valuable information about the degree of risks or hazard levels associated with chemicals specific to a healthcare environment, and finally employees are provided details about the information contained within each section of the new Safety Data Sheet, GHS label elements and the pictograms recently adopted by OSHA.
Learn more about Maxcom training here.
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