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2 Employee and Community Right to Know (Hazard Communications)

Hazcom Ad Front Page

OSHA HazCom Rules (March 26, 2012)

A new final rule on HazCom was published by OSHA on March 26, 2012. There are requirements for employers to train their employees by December 1, 2013 on the new labeling and SDSs (Safety Data Sheets –replacing the old MSDSs). Labeling and SDSs for makers of chemicals and affected materials may not all be in place yet, but should be by the deadline of December 15, 2015.  Two items should be noted by owners of VMFs:

1) Information and Training: To facilitate recognition and understanding, employers are required to train employees on the new label elements (e.g. signal words, pictograms and hazard statements) and SDS format by Dec. 1, 2013.

2) Effective dates: In addition to training employees by Dec. 1, 2013, compliance with modified provisions of the final rule is required by June 1, 2015. Distributors, however, may ship products labeled under the old HazCom standard until Dec. 1, 2015. Finally, by June 1, 2016, employers must update workplace labeling and written hazard communication programs as necessary, and provide additional worker training for newly identified physical and health hazards. During the transition period, all chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers may comply with the old HazCom standard, the amended HazCom standard or both.

A video on the new standard is provided below. The full text of the revised, final HazCom rule is here.

Checklist graphic

HazCom checklist. (All Compliance Audit System checklists for VMFs are available under each topic)


As mentioned at the very top, the new 2012 standard makes some needed changes to help people understand workplace hazards better. Here is a video by AffordableSafetyTraining.com explaining the changes:



Two key federal laws pertain to communications to employees and community agencies regarding hazardous materials in the workplace. The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), frequently called Employee Right-to-Know, is administered by OSHA and equivalent state labor agencies. This standard requires proper communication of hazards associated with coming in contact with materials and chemicals in the workplace.

The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), Title III, commonly referred to as Community Right-to-Know, is administered by EPA. These rules require annual reporting to certain agencies of the types and quantities of hazardous materials that are stored or used at a facility. These agencies are the local fire department, the state emergency-response commission (SERC) and local emergency-planning committees (LEPCs).

These rules serve to alert employees of the immediate and long-term dangers of working with certain materials and the proper protective methods to minimize or eliminate the hazards. These rules also serve to alert local emergency-response agencies, such as the fire department or emergency-response team, of the nature of the hazards that may be encountered during a fire or other emergency requiring entry to the property.

A third related major area covered here is hazardous material (hazmat) transportation rules, especially the required training of personnel involved in any way with the shipping or receiving of hazmat or hazardous wastes.  This information is found at T1.0 Transportation of Hazardous Materials.

Rules on manifests and transportation of hazardous wastes are given here.

These requirements are so fundamental and important, we are placing this information at the beginning of the AESE Online, since they set a foundation for understanding and a reference for basic information needed for any environmental and safety program. Each rule is briefly discussed in the sections below in relation to vehicle maintenance and refueling operations.

Hazard Communication in the Shop

Approximately 60,000 people die prematurely each year from occupational health-related exposures, according to some leading occupational health specialists. From this, it can be estimated nearly 1,500 shop personnel die prematurely each year from occupational illnesses. These are not from sudden injuries but generally from the long-term effects from exposure to not-so-obvious hazards.

Chemical exposures in a typical vehicle/equipment maintenance shop are largely controllable. They must be considered when developing your approach to safety and health issues and the prevention of illnesses, diseases and disorders.

Chemical Exposures

Hazardous substances enter the body through:

Inhalation through the lungs    90%
Absorption through the skin      8%
Ingestion (swallowing)                 2%

Overexposure to certain chemicals causes serious health effects such as lung and liver cancers, brain tumors and deterioration of the nervous system.


A good example of a potential health hazard from exposure to chemicals is when an employee uses gasoline as a solvent. Gasoline gives off a heavy concentration of vapors that are heavier than air and seek the lowest level. These vapors are not only explosive but are easily inhaled and may enter the bloodstream through the lungs. Gasoline, which is a blend of naptha solvent, and its hazardous aromatic constituents may also be absorbed through the skin.

Gasoline contains benzene, a chemical for which OSHA has designated a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 1 parts per million (ppm). Benzene exposure has been linked to diseases like leukemia and other cancers in laboratory animals.

Wherever there is potential exposure to hazardous mists, fumes, dusts or gases, use personal protective equipment (PPE) or ventilation or both.

Skin Absorption

Exposure to chemicals may also cause skin diseases—the number one work-related illness. The skin is the largest organ of the body and is the first body barrier to come into contact with industrial hazards of every type. Surveys indicate one out of every four workers is exposed to some form of skin irritant.

Of over 585,000 registered chemicals, there are over 2,000 chemicals classed as primary irritants—and many of these are present in the vehicle/equipment maintenance facility. Thousands of new chemical formulations enter the market every year. Other chemical compounds, such as strong soaps and detergents, are only mildly irritating, but prolonged use can cause skin problems.

An employee may also become sensitized to certain chemicals after prolonged exposure. If this occurs, even the slightest exposure will result in a reaction. Some people are more chemically sensitive than others.

The key to preventing occupational skin diseases is the elimination or minimization of skin contact with potential irritants and sensitizers. Any one of the elements commonly found in a vehicle/equipment maintenance facility, such as grease, brake fluid, gasoline, pesticides, oil, soap, cleansers and insecticides, could cause skin problems. When hands are placed into a solvent, the body’s natural layer of oil that protects the skin is removed.

In addition to checking the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for potential hazards prior to using a chemical, follow these suggested ways to further protect workers from exposure:

*Provide PPE including gloves. Synthetic rubber or plastic gloves are recommended for protection against solvents, acids or alkaline. Use neoprene gloves to provide protection against oils, acids, alkalines and other chemicals.

*Barrier creams applied to the hands are also effective in providing skin protection. Barrier creams must be reapplied after each hand washing and should:

–    Provide actual protection
–    Be easy to apply and remove
–    Be nonirritating and nonsensitizing
–    Not separate or deteriorate while in storage

   *Personal cleanliness is one of the most effective ways to avoid skin diseases, so encourage employees to wash their hands as often as possible, especially before eating.

Some of the substances and hazards shop employees can be exposed to are:

Carbon monoxide
Welding fumes
Brake dust/asbestos
Gasoline vapors
Oil/petroleum products/used oil

By controlling exposure to these compounds, you can reduce the potential health threat to you and your employees, customers and visitors. An understanding of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) provides an excellent starting point for addressing these concerns. It also sets a foundation for other safety and environmental issues in the shop.

Hazard Communication Standard (HCS)

CFR, Part 1910.1229 00

As mentioned at the very top, the new 2012 standard makes some needed changes to help people understand workplace hazards better. Here is a video by AffordableSafetyTraining.com explaining the changes:

The purpose of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) (or Employee/Worker Right-to-Know law) is to provide employees with information pertaining to potential exposures to and dangers of harmful substances in the workplace including any associated health effects.

Many shop managers seem to think HCS compliance means putting up a poster and keeping Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) in a binder. Consequently, HCS violations are the number one violation cited by OSHA.

All employees who work with hazardous materials must be informed of the potential dangers of the materials and appropriate safety precautions to minimize the immediate and long-term dangers and adverse health effects.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) 

Under the HCS, manufacturers, distributors and importers of hazardous materials must evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they supply to customers. They must complete detailed technical bulletins called Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) and properly label their containers. The MSDSs must be made available to the end users of the products by the supplier.

Suppliers are required to send you an MSDS on each product they provide you at the time of first shipment and provide you with updates when any significant changes are made to the MSDS. The law says you cannot use an affected product until an MSDS is available at the facility and the user is trained. As a matter of policy, you should never allow a hazardous material into the shop—including salesman’s samples—without a legitimate MSDS.

An example of an MSDS is provided at the end of this section with an explanation of each section of an MSDS. Disclosure must be made of hazardous ingredients, physical and chemical characteristics, fire and explosion hazards, health hazards, safe handling, use and disposal and control and protection methods. Some suppliers provide additional information such as toxicological data and DOT shipping information.

Basic HCS Requirements  

As an owner/operator of a vehicle maintenance and refueling facility, you must:

*Prepare an inventory of all hazardous products and materials used at your facility that require an MSDS.

*Ensure a current MSDS is at the facility for each hazardous material.

*Ensure all containers are properly labeled.

*Develop a written hazard communication program that describes how the HCS will be implemented in your facility. (A fill-in-the blank Haz Com written plan (required) is here.)

*Conduct training of all employees so they will know which of the materials they use are hazardous, how to find information on those materials and how to protect themselves; provide hazardous materials-handling and emergency-response training to employees.

*Provide access to MSDSs for every employee. An MSDS notebook that is easily updated, referenced and indexed is recommended.

*Publish and permanently post a policy of compliance on the employee bulletin board.

Hazardous Products and Materials Inventory

Make a list of all hazardous products and materials in the workplace. Examples of those products and materials commonly found in vehicle maintenance facilities include the following:

Diesel fuel
Fuel oil
Lubricating oils
Windshield wiper fluid
Acids and caustics
Battery acidAerosol products
Welding rods and gasses
Cleaning compounds
Automotive fluids
Flammable materials
Powders and dusts
Compressed Gases

Affected materials include materials stored in small and large cans and bottles, bags, boxes, containers, cylinders, drums and underground and aboveground tanks. Make sure you have an MSDS for all materials and the MSDS matches the product label. If not, contact the supplier or manufacturer.

Office- and household-type cleaning products (toilet bowl cleaners, window cleaners, etc.) may also require an MSDS—depending on the quantity stored and how they are used. If your custodian uses more product than he would normally use at home (this is OSHA’s rule-of-thumb), then these products are covered by the HCS. The custodian will also need training.

Add to the list any hazardous by-products, such as those listed below, that may be produced at your location. By-products from the use of materials/products should also be described on the MSDS for those materials/products.

Welding fumes (oxides of iron, aluminum and zinc; ozone)
Carbon monoxide
Asbestos dusts
 Spent coolants
 Used oil
 Solvent and gasoline vapors
 Metallic dusts
 Automotive exhausts

Let’s look at the hazards of some of the most common materials in the paint and body shop. You certainly must cover these materials in your hazard communication program:

Many topcoats, hardeners, glass or punchweld primers contain isocyanates, an extremely toxic class of compounds. Overexposure to isocyanates can cause eye and throat irritation. Long-term overexposure can cause permanent damage to the lungs, central nervous system and brain. They are mostly found in the dusts from sanding, grinding etc., but may also be present as a gas in the air.

Note: The OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for most monomeric isocyanates is only 0.005 parts per million (ppm) (that is 5 parts per billion (ppb), the same as about 5 ounces of a substance in 7.8 million gallons of water). Above this level of isocyanates, you risk health effects.

Aerosol cleaners for plastic repair contain toluene and xylene. These attack the liver, kidneys and nervous system.

Buffing compounds and butyl tapes contain crystalline silica, a lung irritant that can cause lung cancer.

Wheel cleaners contain acid such as hydrofluoric acid. It can irritate and burn the skin and eyes.

Adhesives and rubberized undercoatings contain thinners such as acetone and 1,1 trichloroethane.

Paints contain mineral spirits. Orange, yellow and red paints on trucks and industrial equipment can contain lead chromate, presenting a hazard when sanding, grinding or applying. The OSHA PEL for lead is 0.05 ppm with an action level of 0.03 ppm.

Solvents may contain mineral spirits, alcohols or other hydrocarbons.

Paint strippers, cleaners and adhesives may contain methylene chloride, another dangerous compound that causes cancer.

Body parts (coated steel, painted parts, bumpers, plastic parts, etc.) subjected to cutting, grinding, sanding or welding will also produce hazardous fumes. The worker needs to be aware of this, what is in the coating or plastic and what protective measures to take.

MSDSs are not required for hazardous wastes or used products and by-products. However, disposal methods and hazards of spent or used products and hazardous fumes must be mentioned in the MSDS from the source materials.

Exemptions include materials and products that may be purchased at a retail store in small quantities and used in a fashion as one may use a product at home.

The hazard class(es) of each material or product will be indicated in the hazardous-ingredient section of the MSDS. A material is considered hazardous if it is a combustible liquid, flammable, compressed gas, oxidizer, acid, caustic, pesticide, an irritant or other toxic or hazardous material.

Proper Labeling

*You are responsible to assure every container of hazardous material is properly labeled when it enters the shop. Labeling, tagging or marking of all containers of hazardous materials must include the product name, name and address of the manufacturer or supplier, a description of the hazard and required personal protective equipment (PPE).

*When a container of any hazardous material arrives at your shop, the container must have the identity of the hazardous chemical or product and appropriate warning labels. If any chemical or product is transferred to a smaller container, the smaller container must be labeled properly—unless it is a temporary container that will be used up by the end of the shift. OSHA has established a labeling system intended to alert employees to chemical hazards before opening the container.

The new SDS, pictograms and labeling system is explained at the OSHA hazcom page:

Hazard Communication Standard QuickCards

The following is an example of the old labeling methods

NFPA 704 Label

Within the small squares or diamonds on the product label are entered numbers indicating what type of hazard, if any, is present in the container:

0   =  No Hazard

1   =  Slight Hazard

2   =  Moderate Hazard

3   =  Serious Hazard

4   =  Severe Hazard

Red = Flammability

Blue = Health

Yellow = Reactivity

White = Special Hazard

The white bar on the HMIS label allows for the placement of any symbol for PPE. The white diamond on the NFPA label provides a place for a special note.

HMIS Chart

If any information is missing from the container, contact the supplier.

Written Hazard Communication Plan (HCP)

Under the HCS, employers must prepare a written Hazard Communication Plan (HCP). The plan must include the following:

*Name and position of the designated person responsible for implementing the program;

*Name and position of the person responsible for determining the hazards of incoming materials;

*Maintenance and employee access to MSDS records, employee exposure and health records for 30 years;

*Provisions for employee training;

*Methods of informing employees of hazards of tasks not normally part of the routine job description;

*Methods used to inform contractors of worksite hazards and how contractors must advise the facility managers of hazards brought onto the site;

*Use of PPE; and

*Spill-response plan.

Employee Training

All employees must be properly trained in hazardous materials-handling and emergency response before working with hazardous materials. Employees must obtain a general understanding of the HCS and their rights, the hazardous materials to which the worker is or could be exposed, the location of the hazardous materials, the effect on the body, detection of exposures, personal protection methods and the written HCP.

This regulation is different from many training rules because it requires the employee to be knowledgeable, not merely to have attended a training session. Managers should have training documents and tests signed by employees. It is recommended employees be trained annually. Whenever their job changes such that the change requires them to work with different hazardous materials, or when a new hazardous material is introduced to their workplace, they must be retrained.

Many states require annual training. While federal law does not require annual training, it is strongly recommended at all locations. Be sure to check your state requirements as several states have rules that are more stringent than the federal standard.

Additional Comments

Labeling requirements for pipes containing hazardous materials are exempt from HCS, but it’s usually a good idea to label pipes and may be required by other federal, state or local regulations. These include pipes containing steam, hot and cold water, compressed air, natural gas, fuels, wastewater, used oil, etc.

HCS does not cover EPA hazardous wastes, but good hazard training and communications is required by EPA and by OSHA’s general-duty clause.

HCS does cover materials that are used in a fashion that would produce a hazardous gas or dust. These materials include:

Welding rods

Metal parts

Coated parts

Plastic parts

Steel coated with oil

HCS covers potential hazards, e.g., a compressed gas cylinder, a grinding wheel (even though it is ventilated), sandpaper (even though you wear a respirator,


Community Right-to-Know (SARA Title III)

40 CFR, Part 370.20 

Community right-to-know regulations require annual reporting of all hazardous materials (which require an MSDS sheet) that are stored or used in quantities above their threshold planning quantity (TPQ)—10,000 pounds for most materials— at any one time during the calendar year.

Extremely hazardous substances have TPQs of 500 pounds or less–but these types of materials are not usually found at vehicle maintenance shops. The approximate volume equivalents (in gallons) are given below. Most commonly, at nonretail fueling locations, these materials will include
only the following:

Fuel oil (>1,360 gal)
Gasoline (>1,580 gal)
Diesel fuel (>1,360 gal)

If you store kerosene, aviation fuel or propane in excess of 10,000 pounds,
this must also be reported.

Storing the following materials over the quantities shown also would require

Antifreeze(>1,060 gal) 
Lubes and greases (>1,380 gal)
Mineral spirits (>1,560 gal)
Engine oils (>1,330 gal)

Hydraulic oils (>1360 gal) 
Other automotive chemicals
Paints and thinners

EPA provided reporting relief to retail gasoline stations that
sell gasoline and/or diesel fuel to the public. Where gasoline (all grades
combined) is stored entirely underground in USTs in compliance with UST
regulations, the TPQ is 75,000 gallons. For diesel fuel, the TPQ is
100,000 gallons. These rules effectively eliminate annual reports, but
apply only to retail gasoline/diesel stations. They do not apply to any
other fueling operation. This does not necessarily mean that all state and
local emergency-planning authorities will adopt this TPQ.

In some states and locales, TPQs may be lower and certain other materials,
such as hazardous wastes, used oil and spent coolants, may also need to be
reported. You should contact your local fire department or your LEPC for
questions concerning specific state and local requirements.

Here is a good video for the background and purpose of these rules:

Reporting of Hazardous Materials 

Under the rule, if you store regulated materials above the TPQ, you are required
to designate a site emergency coordinator and an alternate. This includes
mixtures and materials containing hazardous components. By March 1 of each
year, you are required to submit an annual inventory report to the SERC,
LEPC and local fire department.

Your local fire department should be able to give you the contact person for
the SERC and LEPC to receive the proper forms and instructions. States may require either form, but most states
require Tier II. Some state and local agencies also require submittal of
MSDSs for all reportable materials. A site map showing locations of all
materials may also be required.

Reporting of Environmental Releases  

Section 313 of SARA Title III requires reporting of releases to the environment
(releases to the air, water, ground, storm sewers) above the reportable
quantity (RQ). This does not commonly occur at vehicle maintenance and
refueling operations, but includes releases of ammonia, sulfuric acid and ethylene glycol as discussed below.

Important Exceptions 

Special attention should be given to the 500-pound storage limitation for
reporting of sulfuric acid (including the amount contained in the lead-acid
batteries stored on site).  Spills or releases of more than 1,000 pounds of sulfuric acid are reportable.

Ammonia refrigerants used in tractor-trailer refrigeration units and cold storage facilities must be reported where stored in quantities of 500 pounds or more. Spills and releases of more than 100 pounds of ammonia are reportable.

Ethylene glycol, the major ingredient in most engine coolants, had an RQ of only one (1)pound for releases to the environment. EPA raised the RQ for spills and releases to 5,000 pounds in early 1995. TPQ for SARA Title III reporting remains at 10,000 pounds.

 Implementing Your Program

Since Community and Employee Right-to-Know are similar programs, they are usually coordinated by the same person or department. Large operations, such as a national chain of company-owned service centers or service stations, may develop and coordinate a program but delegate implementation to district and regional management personnel. Ultimately, the practical, day-to-day compliance responsibilities must lie with each facility manager in order to have an effective program.

In smaller operations, one person may be responsible for the entire program. Small companies most likely would need to work with their trade association or an outside consultant or training specialist to develop and implement an effective program.

Beware of generic training programs. When selecting a consultant or training program, make sure the individual(s) have specific experience in right-to-know training in vehicle maintenance and refueling operations rather than general experience in unrelated industries. In addition, the well-qualified trainers usually have education or background in safety, industrial hygiene, occupational health, environmental control or other specialized and related fields.

It is common in small and large companies for all health, safety and environmental training programs to be coordinated from the same department or individual.  Since there may be several areas of employee training required by law, consideration should be given to integrating all required environmental, health and safety training into one training series.

Module 2. Shop Hazard Communications (Employee Right to Know)

DVD: Employee Right to Know for Automotive ServiceManager Training
Step 1– Read Tech Material

Step 2– Print and takeTech Test.

Step 3–Review Main Haz Com Section and watch video

Step 4 –Print and complete Haz Com Audit Checklist .

(A fill-in-the blank Haz Com written plan (required) is here.)

Provide for Technician Training:
Step 1– Give out Tech Material (4 pages; suggested– print one copy to pass around)
Step 2– In group meeting on the shop floor, discuss Haz Com, show examples of materials, labeling and Safety Data Sheets and answer questions. (Optional but optimal–run a short HazCom training video/DVD)
Step 3– Administer Tech Test (one page– print for each person)
Step 4–File all documentation in EHS files under EHS Training folder.

Give refresher training each year or every two years as required by OSHA and during new employee orientation.





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2 Responses to 2 Employee and Community Right to Know (Hazard Communications)

  1. AESE on January 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Short general video on HCS. An example of how a user can add material relevant to a topic.

  2. David Augenstein on February 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    There is excellent content here for my operations.

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