Tags: OSHA


OSHA requires employers to label hazardous chemicals in their workplaces. The goal is to improve safety by providing information when and where it is needed. OSHA’s current rules for this type of labeling are part of a regulation called HazCom 2012. This guide will help you understand the HazCom 2012 labeling format, and how it differs from other label formats. It will help you read existing labels and create your own compliant labels. The exact regulatory text can be found in 29 CFR §1910.1200; you can view or download it through OSHA’s website at osha.gov/dsg/hazcom.

About the Regulations

The OSHA standard that governs the labeling of chemical hazards in the workplace is called the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Because the standard is meant to reflect a worker’s right to know about the hazards they may be exposed to, they have also been called “Right-To- Know” (RTK).  The rules were dramatically revised in 2012. The new version of the standard, also called “HazCom 2012,” is sometimes called “Right-To-Understand.”

In creating HazCom 2012, OSHA selected elements of an international system from the United Nations. Many other countries had already adopted this approach, called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS describes specific ways to classify the hazards posed by a chemical, and assigns label details for each hazard, based on the classification. A variety of different label layouts are possible, but all GHS-aligned labels feature certain common elements. HazCom 2012 labels are no exception.

In some facilities, existing chemical labels, as part of an overall chemical safety program, may already satisfy OSHA’s workplace labeling requirements. These safety programs may already provide the level of workplace labeling and employee training requirements OSHA requires for a compliance HazCom Program.

Because chemical suppliers will be using the detailed HazCom 2012 labels, though, each employer is still required to train affected employees to recognize and understand the GHS-aligned label format. This is in addition to the requirement that affected employees must be trained for the chemical labels that are actually used in their workplaces. Following a similar format for all chemical labels can reduce the amount of additional training needed for an effective chemical safety program.


Once the hazards have been classified and categorized, this information should appear on a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). The SDS will also include other information about the material, such as recommended procedures for first aid, and the information will be presented in a clear and consistent way. This format replaces the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), and is specifically required in HazCom 2012 regulations.

This list shows the required headings, in their required order. In the regulations, each section is clearly defined for consistency across suppliers. The sections are:

  1. Identification
  2. Hazard(s) Identification
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
  4. First-Aid Measures
  5. Fire-Fighting Measures
  6. Accidental Release Measures
  7. Handling and Storage
  8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties
  10. Stability and Reactivity
  11. Toxicological Information
  12. Ecological Information
  13. Disposal Considerations
  14. Transport Information ***
  15. Regulatory Information ***
  16. Other information, including date of preparation or last revision ***

The SDS includes detailed information about a chemical, and must be provided by the chemical’s supplier.  Employers must make sure that SDS are available to employees throughout the facility they are working in.


*** (Contents of this section are recommended, but not required by OSHA.)


Under HazCom 2012, chemical suppliers must provide an accurate and compliant SDS for each material at three specific times:

  1. With the first shipment of the material to a recipient
  2. When significant new information has been identified
  3. Whenever the recipient requests an SDS

If you receive chemicals from a supplier without an SDS, you should request one from the supplier. If you manufacture or supply a chemical to other companies, it is your responsibility to provide the SDS for it. This may require you to classify the chemicals’ hazards using the criteria listed in the HazCom 2012 standard. For questions, contact our Sioux Falls, Sioux City, or Omaha office today!


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