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Exposure to Hazardous Material Must be Clearly Communicated

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

In January of this year, a state of emergency was declared in West Virginia after a leak was detected at a chemical storage facility situated on the Elk River upstream from the city of Charleston.

Over the next month, public safety information on drinking water quality, the amount of chemicals leaked, even the types of chemicals leaked varied greatly depending on the source whether it was FEMA, the State of West Virginia, water treatment managers or Freedom Industries, the owner of the storage facility.

In March of 2011, an earthquake-generated tsunami with 40-foot waves inundated the Northeast coast of Japan and the Fukushima nuclear power plant, knocking out the water towers used to cool spent radioactive material.

Since the accident, public safety information has devolved from no significant threat to radioactive water in the Pacific Ocean to a potential long-term geographic quarantine on the scope of Ukraine’s Chernobyl.

Learn how to properly dispose of hazardous waste, and download Graphic Products' free Hazardous Waste Management Guide.

hazardous waste won't make you a ninja

These significant events hold the potential to adversely affect the health of thousands of people for an undefined period of time. Yet, despite their devastating impact, safety and health warnings changed drastically over time through investigation, politics, media and misinformation.

Clear communication regarding the dangers of hazardous materials cannot be taken lightly, whether you’re referring to a major industrial disaster or the dangers of chemicals handled by personnel throughout your supply chain. In addition to adverse health effects of immediate exposure, many hazardous chemicals carry long-term health hazards that in some cases may not show up for hours, days, even years. Mesothelioma, the deadly cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure, has been the basis for class-action lawsuits decades after the exposures occurred.

Do not take the efficacy of your HazCom labeling and signage for granted, especially with regard to the recently adopted HazCom 2012 OSHA standards. Make sure all hazardous materials within your environment are clearly identified, compliant with OSHA standards, and designed to hold up to exposure that may include temperature extremes, marine air, even the chemicals it is identifying.

As of December 1, 2013, OSHA is requiring compliance on the first rule of the HazCom 2012 standards which includes training employees on new GHS label elements and standardizing material safety data sheets (MSDS) to the new safety data sheet (SDS) format. Between now and June 1, 2015 the various right-to-know systems currently in use will be in compliance. However, as of December 1, 2015 all chemical container labeling must comply with OSHA’s GHS HazCom system standards.

Learn how to label and sign hazardous materials in compliance with GHS and HazCom 2012 standards with Graphic Products' HazCom 2012 Labeling guide.