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Advice From the OSHA Expert

Do you know what you should about the Hazard Communication Standard?

by Dan Scungio • March 07, 2019

Safety, Technical

Dan Scungio
Dan, the Lab Safety Man

When I perform safety rounds with phlebotomists, I include OSHA's Chemical Hygiene (or Laboratory Standard), and the Hazard Communication Standard in my focus. Whether or not you spend time in the clinical laboratory, it may come as a surprise to you that there is information about chemical hazards that you need to know.

The Hazard Communication Standard states that you have a right to know about all of the dangers in your workplace, and your employer is responsible to train you about the risks in order to provide a safe working environment. One way to do that is to be educated about any chemicals or reagents that are stored or used in your work area. In blood collection areas, there may be cleaning supplies (such as bleach), peroxides and rubbing alcohols, and the Chemical Hygiene Standard applies to these as well. Through your facility's Chemical Hygiene Plan, a Chemical Hygiene Officer should be named, and that person is responsible for managing and updating an inventory of all chemicals stored and used. If you do not know who that person is, make sure you find out.

Container labeling is an important aspect of the Chemical Hygiene Plan. All chemicals are required to have a label that contains the identity of the chemical, the manufacturer, hazard warnings, and target organs affected if exposed. Secondary containers used to pour off or store chemicals, such as 10% bleach solution for routine disinfection, need to be properly labeled as well with the name of the chemical, concentration, route of entry, health hazard, physical hazard, target organs affected, lab name, lot number and expiration date. Alternatively, secondary containers can be identified by chemical name and a completed National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) label.

Knowledge of how to interpret Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and ready access to these important documents 24/7 should be part of your initial and annual safety training program. If there is a chemical spill or exposure, using MSDS is your best resource for treating the affected employee or cleaning up a potentially hazardous spill.

If you work in a clinical laboratory, you already know there are many chemicals and reagents present that can pose a safety risk. Just remember that if you work in a blood collection center or as a traveling phlebotomist, there may be chemicals in those environments as well. Make sure you are properly educated about the existing hazards and how to respond should there be a chemical spill or exposure. If this is news to you, ask your employer how OSHA's Hazard Communication and Chemical Hygiene Standards can keep you safe.


  • US Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 29 CFR 1910.1200 Hazard Communication. Link. Accessed 3/5/2019.
  • US Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 29 CFR 1910.1450 Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories. Link. Accessed 3/5/2019.
  • US Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Hazardous Chemicals in Labs, OSHA Fact Sheet. Link. Accessed 3/5/2019.

You can contact Dan Scungio, aka "Dan the Lab Safety Man" at [email protected].



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