Dealing With HAZMAT: What Employers Need to Know

Hazardous materials, also known as HAZMAT, are present in numerous professions. What seems to be an ordinary product might be flammable, toxic, or even explosive. It is essential for professionals in environments where they may encounter hazardous materials to receive adequate training on handling dangerous goods. Though one might only be responsible for a specific part of the process of dealing with HAZMAT, the training should cover topics such as transport, storage, use, disposal and emergency response.

OSHA’s hazard communication standard specifies: “This section [1910.1200(b)(1)] requires chemical manufacturers or importers to classify the hazards of chemicals which they produce or import, and all employers to provide information to their employees about the hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed, by means of a hazard communication program, labels and other forms of warning, safety data sheets, and information and training.” Employees have the right to know about potentially dangerous materials they could come across in their workplace. Thus, the employer is responsible for providing employees with training.

Employers should pay particular care to incorporate following topics into the training process:

  • Material Safety Data Sheet
  • Types of hazardous chemicals
  • Characteristics and effects of different chemicals
  • Labeling
  • How to safely handle dangerous materials
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Spills and clean-up

Employers also need to be aware of the specific regulations which apply to their geographic regions. As such, certain chemicals might be classified differently in the United States as opposed to other countries. Specific state regulations may also apply.

A good starting point to become familiar with different regulations surrounding handling of hazardous materials is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website.

Once employers have a better understanding of OSHA regulations, they are responsible for providing comprehensive training to employees. For this, a good resource is the OpenSesame catalog of elearning courses on several safety topics.