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Hazardous Chemical

By: Tabitha Mishra
| Last updated: August 2, 2018

What Does Hazardous Chemical Mean?

A hazardous chemical is any chemical that has the potential to cause injury, adverse health effects, or damage to the environment.

Chemical hazards take a variety of forms, including dusts, vapors, fumes, solvents, acids, and petroleum.

Safeopedia Explains Hazardous Chemical

Extreme caution must be taken when handling, storing, transporting, or using chemicals. Depending on the type of chemical and its hazardous properties, the user may need to wear protective clothing, safety glasses, chemical-resistant gloves, or a respirator.

Each hazardous chemical product will have a corresponding safety data sheet (SDS) that outlines the risks associated with the chemical, as well as the safety measures that must be followed when dealing with it.

Hazardous Chemical Categories

Hazardous chemicals can have a variety of adverse effects. They may, for instance, cause skin irritation, lead to lung damage after prolonged exposure, corrode certain types of materials, or initiate chemical reactions when exposed to air or water.

Many hazardous chemicals are also classified as dangerous goods since they are capable of causing explosions, fires, corrosion, or other dangerous reactions.

While there is a vast multitude of possible hazards, hazardous chemicals can be sorted into three broad hazard categories:

  • Flammable or explosive (e.g. petroleum, TNT, plastic explosives)
  • Irritating or corrosive to skin, lungs, and eyes (e.g. acids, alkali, paints, fumes)
  • Toxic chemicals (e.g. carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, cyanide)

OSHA Regulation for Chemical Exposure

OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 29 CFR Section 1910.1200 is designed to convey important information about chemical and toxic substance hazards in the workplace and appropriate protective measures. The HCS requires the development and dissemination of the following information:

  • Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals must: evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, prepare labels and safety data sheets that convey safety information to their customers
  • Businesses that use hazardous chemicals must: have appropriate labels and SDS for chemical products kept and used in the workplace, provide chemical safety training to employees, communicate the information needed to safely use and handle hazardous chemicals

OSHA’s SDS Requirement

OSHA defines a hazardous chemical as any that includes an element, mixture of elements, or compound that is a physical or health hazard.

OSHA’s HCS requires the development of an SDS for:

  • Any chemical with an OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL)
  • Any chemical listed with a threshold limit value by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
  • Any carcinogen listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer – Groups 1, 2A and 2B
  • Any carcinogen listed by the National Toxicology Program
  • Any chemical regulated by OSHA as a carcinogen

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