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- As defined by OSHA Standard 1910.1200 (the OSHA Haz-com standard), a hazardous chemical is one which is a physical hazard or a health hazard.
Health hazard means a chemical for which there is statistically significant evidence based on at least one study conducted in accordance with established scientific principles that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees. The term "health hazard" includes chemicals which are carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents which act on the hematopoietic system, and agents which damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes.
Appendix A provides further definitions and explanations of the scope of health hazards covered by this section, and Appendix B describes the criteria to be used to determine whether or not a chemical is to be considered hazardous for purposes of this standard.
Educate your workers about chemical hazards with safety posters from Safety Emporium.
This safety wall poster from Safety Emporium uses humor to reinforce the importance of proper chemical handling.
Hazard vs Risk - A hazard is an inherent (built-in) property of a material. Risk is the extent to which that material can cause harm. You can reduce or remove risks associated with a hazardous material, but you can not remove the underlying hazard itself (unless you get rid of the hazardous material, of course). For example, gasoline is hazardous, but it does not have a significant risk provided that proper use and storage precautions have been taken. See the last three links under Further Reading below for more information and discussion on this very fine (but very important) point.
- 29 CFR part 1910, subpart Z, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or,
- "Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents in the Work Environment," American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) (latest edition). The chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer is still responsible for evaluating the hazards associated with the chemicals in these source lists in accordance with the requirements of this standard.
Material safety data sheets provide the necessary information for you to understand and deal with the potential hazards associated with a particular substance. Read the sheet carefully before you use a hazardous material for the first time or any time you are unsure about the hazards or necessary precautions. The MSDS can help you reduce the risks (but not the underlying hazards; see above) associated with the materials in your workplace.
Remember: MSDS's are only required for materials that are hazardous. Often times, manufacturers are asked for MSDS's for products that do not meet this requirement - manufacturers are under no obligation to produce MSDS's for non-hazardous materials. Both we and OSHA discourage the production of MSDS's for non-hazardous materials (listen up, corporate attorneys).
Our MSDS FAQ contains more information and a list of materials that may not require MSDS's under the OSHA HazCom Standard.
See also: toxic, carcinogen.
Entry last updated: Thursday, August 18, 2011. This page is copyright 2000-2014 by ILPI. Unauthorized duplication or posting on other web sites is expressly prohibited. Send suggestions, comments, and new entry desires (include the URL if applicable) to us by email.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is believed to be true and accurate, however ILPI makes no guarantees concerning the veracity of any statement. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. ILPI strongly encourages the reader to consult the appropriate local, state and federal agencies concerning the matters discussed herein.