What is HCS?
According to OSHA, the purpose of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is “to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals
produced or imported are evaluated and details regarding their hazards are transmitted to employers and employees." The
premise behind HCS is that employers and employees have the right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they
are exposed to and what precautions they can take to protect themselves.
OSHA is presently aligning HCS with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), a global hazard communication system developed by
the UN that standardizes the classification of chemicals and the communication of hazards via labels and MSDSs. With GHS
alignment, the classification of chemicals will include the categorization of hazards based upon severity. Other changes
will significantly alter labels and safety data sheets.
Labels will now have six standardized elements: product identifier, manufacturer information, signal word, pictograms,
hazard statements and precautionary statements. Also under GHS, safety data sheets are referred to as SDSs, dropping the
M from MSDSs. More importantly, these SDSs have 16 sections which are arranged in a strict ordering. Because of these and
other changes, employers should expect to update their entire safety data sheet library in the near future. Learn more
about the HCS revision by visiting our GHS Answer Center.
Stay on top of GHS adoption by downloading our GHS / HazCom 2012 Adoption Timeline Checklist. Print it out and hang it in your office keep track of your progress.
HCS violations consistently rank in the top 3 of OSHA’s ten most frequently cited standards list and is the one
standard that ranks high across all industries.
Costs of non-compliance include:
Risk & Liability
Downtime & Internal Disruption
Negative Press & Damage to Corporate Image
During an inspection, you will be asked to produce:
Written HCS Plan
List/Inventory of Chemicals Used in the Workplace
Proper Labeling of Chemicals
MSDS Documents & Employee Access
Employee Training Specifications
Who Has Responsibility
Safety Manager To-Do List
Nearly everyone involved in the manufacture, transport, distribution, and use of hazardous chemicals has at least some
responsibilities under HCS.
Chemical Manufacturers need to evaluate the chemicals and any components of chemical products
they produce to identify potential hazards, and then must create and distribute appropriate warning labels and material
safety data sheets (MSDSs) along with any chemicals they ship to importers, distributors or end-users.
Importers and Distributors must also supply labels and MSDSs along with any hazardous chemicals
they ship to end-users. If, for whatever reason, they are not able to secure an MSDS from the chemical manufacturer, then
the responsibility is theirs to create and transmit all necessary labels and MSDSs.
End-users and Employers responsibilities consist of five key components:
Creating and Maintaining a Written Plan
Proper Use of Labels & Warnings
Material Safety Data Sheets
For an expanded discussion of the five key components of employer responsibilities, read the Safety Manager To-Do List
under the next tab.