OSHA Revises Recommended Practices and Emphasizes Chemical Safety

To “reflect changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues,” OSHA has updated its Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs (Recommended Practices) document for the first time in nearly 30 years. While these practices do not contain new regulations or requirements, they are an excellent indicator of what OSHA would like to see in terms of workplace safety programs. The new Recommended Practices are built around seven core safety elements:

  • Management leadership
  • Worker participation
  • Hazard identification and assessment
  • Hazard prevention and control
  • Education and training
  • Program evaluation and improvement
  • Communication and coordination for host employers, contractors and staffing agencies

“Since OSHA's original guidelines were published more than 25 years ago, employers and employees have gained a lot of experience in how to use safety and health programs to systematically prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace,” said OSHA head Dr. David Michaels in a press release. “We know that working together to implement these programs will help prevent injuries and illnesses, and also make businesses more sustainable.”

The prior version of the recommendations did not centrally emphasize chemical safety. (In fact, the word “chemical” only appeared twice in the entire document!) However, this new version has greatly expanded chemical safety content, and clearly strives to make clear that OSHA now expects chemical safety to be an integral component of all workplace safety programs.

In the new version of the document, OSHA calls for employers to embrace several prescribed chemical management steps, such as “[reviewing] SDSs and product labels to identify chemicals in your workplace that have low exposure limits, are highly volatile, or are used in large quantities or in unventilated spaces [and to] identify activities that may result in skin exposure to chemicals.” OSHA also calls for businesses to “give workers the information they need to understand safety and health hazards and control measures in the workplace” including unrestricted access to safety data sheets and “chemical and equipment manufacturer safety recommendations.” 

The new version also takes pains to explain how good chemical safety can prevent injuries, control environmental impact, and help serve a company’s bottom line. OSHA believe a holistic approach to all of these areas “builds trust, enhances communication, and often leads to other business improvements.”

OSHA notes that employers participating in voluntary, recommended safety practices can also enjoy higher quality outputs and higher profits.

Wherever you are in the process of making a commitment to safety in your workplace, VelocityEHS has tools that can help. Our award-winning, mobile-enabled MSDSonline chemical management solutions can help you access, manage, and deploy a compliant SDS library across an organization of any size. Our flexible web-based workplace training solutions can help you meet requirements and ensure workers have a strong understanding of workplace health and safety requirements. To view the updated Recommended Practices document, visit OSHA’s dedicated website.