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Hazard Communication

You Have The Right To Know--And Understand

Employees of W&M have the right to know the properties and potential safety and health hazards of substances to which they may be exposed. Such knowledge is essential to reducing the risk of occupational illness and injury.

In 2012, OSHA revised the Hazard Communication Standard to bring it into alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), which will also give workers the "Right To Understand."            

Goals of Hazard Communication:

  • To help you reduce the risks involved in working with hazardous materials
  • To transmit vital information to employees about real and potential hazards of substances in the work place
  • To reduce the incidence and cost of illness and injury resulting from hazardous substances
  • To promote public employer's need and right to know
  • To encourage a reduction in the volume and toxicity of hazardous substances

William & Mary Hazard Communication Program

For more information on Hazard Communication and the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) visit OSHAs website.

Direction from Dennis Manos, Vice Provost for Research & Graduate Professional Studies, regarding who is required to complete the training with regards to faculty:

"Under OSHA law, it is the right of every employee to understand workplace risks and to know the proper means of protecting themselves and their coworkers from injury. The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, also known as the GHS, was adopted into the OSHA Hazard Communication standard. Employers are required to provide training for certain workers regarding these changes so that they will understand the new GHS compliant labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS's).  This is a Federal Requirement that can be completed through an asynchronous, online course in Blackboard for William & Mary employees.  The 116 page modification of the labeling laws (Title 29 Part 1910.1200) is very dense reading, so I won’t be able to give specific guidance on every substance or article in your area. Generally, the definition of a chemical can range from research grade chemicals to solvents and certain cleaners to spray paint, among other items, but it does not include foodstuffs, hand soaps, dish soaps, for example. As guidance for this purpose, a “chemical” ought to have at least some level of recognized routine hazard associated with it. 

The law discusses who must take the training. Here, I hope to give you sufficient guidance that you will not have too much trouble deciding who needs to be on the unit list that you develop in response to my request. Faculty, student employees, post-docs, technical support staff members, and even visitors or collaborators, who handle or store chemicals in your unit’s laboratories, or in connection with your unit’s field work, must take this training.  PI’s and other supervisors of these individuals also must take this training class. Chairs, Directors, and other managers who are responsible for the PI’s, or for the PI’s workers, and who may have to answer workers questions regarding this aspect of their employment, must also take this training. 

Individuals who do not directly work with or handle chemicals as a routine part of their normal daily activities, or who are not likely to do so in responding to foreseeable emergencies are not required to take this training. So, for example, clerical or secretarial assistants who do not routinely receive and handle chemicals would not be required to take it.  Neither would other desk workers who are not, as part of their normal duties, authorized to enter laboratory or storage areas marked with hazard labels. Often times, however, folks who work at a desk are comforted by a better understanding of why certain areas are prohibited from entry. They like to be told about the hazards down the hall, and how their safety is not compromised by their own proximity to these labeled areas. So, while only some people MUST take the training, I hope you will let all workers know that they are very welcome and even highly encouraged to take it."