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    The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard

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    On 25 Nov. 1983, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on hazard communication. This final rule represents over ten years of rule-making activity. The purpose of the Hazard Communication Standard is to ensure that hazards of all chemicals produced or imported by chemical manufacturers are evaluated and that the information on these chemical hazards is transmitted to employers and employees within the manufacturing sector.

    Employers in the manufacturing sector [Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes 20–39] are to provide information to their employees about hazardous chemicals by means of a hazard communication program, labels and other forms of warning, Material Safety Data Sheets, and information and training. The purpose of the Hazard Communication Standard is threefold:

    1. To ensure that the chemicals produced or imported or both by chemical manufacturers and importers are evaluated to determine their hazards.

    2. To provide information about hazardous chemicals to all employers and employees in the manufacturing sector.

    3. To establish uniform requirements nationwide by preempting state right-to-know laws applicable to the manufacturing sector. A state may assume responsibility in this area only through the provisions of Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

    The standard applies to chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers in the manufacturing sector in SIC Codes 20 through 39. In addition, the standard applies to any chemical known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency. There is limited coverage for laboratories as well as exclusions for certain products.

    There are six major elements of the Hazard Communication Standard:

    1. Hazard assessment—the hazards of chemicals must be evaluated by chemical manufacturers and importers. The information must be passed on to employers in the manufacturing sector who purchase the hazardous chemicals.

    2. Hazard communication program—employers covered by the regulation must develop a hazard communication program to transmit information on hazardous chemicals to their employees.

    3. Labels and other forms of warning must be placed on containers of hazardous chemicals.

    4. Materials Safety Data Sheets must be developed to transmit hazard information to the manufacturing employees and employers.

    5. Employee information and training must be provided. This includes identifying work operations where hazardous chemicals are present as well as means that employees can take to protect themselves.

    6. Trade secret provisions—there are provisions for the release and protection of trade secret information.


    hazard determination, labels, Material Safety Data Sheets, MSDS, hazard communication, chemical manufacturer, distributor, manufacturing employer

    Author Information:

    McDaniel, DW
    Regional Industrial Hygienist—Dallas, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Dallas, TX

    Committee/Subcommittee: E34.40

    DOI: 10.1520/STP19350S