If you live in the United States, you have less than one month to train your employees on the new Hazard Communication standard (1910.1200(h) & 1926.59), which should include information about the new types of Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as MSDS) and the adaptation with the Global Harmonization System (GHS). December 1, 2013 is the enforcement start date for OSHA. Don’t make this complicated, it is straightforward. Here’s what you should do:

  • Train employees in hazard communication (simply: so they know the hazards they are working with)beer
  • Document your training (in case of an OSHA inspection)
  • Show them a sample Safety Data Sheet (SDS), compared with the old MSDS
  • Explain that the new SDS will not be available immediately, but will roll-out over a few years (or more)

*Please note the “Beer” hazard warning on the right is not GHS compliant. 

For Help:

AIHA has released (2013) a white paper for guidelines on skills & competencies in silica specific to construction. It is a great outline for training your employees.

Some interesting points:

  • Respiratory protection, and their respective assigned protection factor is mentioned. (Are you wearing the right respirator?)
  • There is no mention of air sampling. Thank you. You do not need air sampling every-time, we already know it’s hazardous.
  • They emphasize control measures for silica.

Another recent publication from IRSST in Canada explains the effectiveness of controls with regard to specific tools and where exposures are found in the industry. It has a lot of information, but if you are looking for the best method to control dust with a certain tool, it would be worthwhile to read the 108 page document.

silica- IIRST graph


The best resource for silica is You can create a plan for controlling it here. They have a database of tools & controls. Very handy. Someday soon we may see 3D printers able to make these dust controls and adapters for us at a moments notice. Until then, pre plan your task.

So, while standing in the California jet-way waiting to board my plane, I noticed this sign. It was most likely a Proposition 65 labeling warning. However, what in the world do you do with that information? How did posting that sign change any behavior? Could I have done anything different to avoid the jet fumes?

prop65 jet

It reads, “Warning. Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm are present in the jet engine exhaust fumes from jet fuel, and exhaust from equipment used to service airplanes. Sometimes these chemicals enter this jet bridge.”

In much the same way, sometimes our warning to employees is pointless. What can they do different? What is the point of telling them something if there is nothing we can do different?

The global harmonization system (GHS) is being implemented in the US by the end of 2013. By 2014 you must train your employees on the new changes to the (Material) Safety Data Sheets (SDS, now). (BTW, there are also some other things you must do).

The message I am trying to make (double irony, I know) is when you are training your employees, how do you measure the effectiveness  If they “sign in and say they were in your training”, were you effective? Here are some suggestions, which might help to measure the right thing:

  • Questions. This ___ number of the audience asked ___ questions.
  • Feedback. I received ____ # of suggestions for the next training.
  • Changes. They are going to implement ____ changes to their workplace.
  • Secondary labeling. (GHS specific, of course) While walking around the site, I noticed ____ secondary labels with the new labeling pictographs.

I admit these aren’t the-best-suggestions-ever. But, warning someone without an alternative, method to change, or way to adopt a change, is really pointless.

Reviewing a material safety data sheet (MSDS), or soon to be called a SDS (safety data sheet), can be a useful skill. Most times the product is straightforward and gives you what you need. However, there are somethings to watch for and areas to focus to make your reviewing skills better.

To start,  make sure you have the right SDS. Match the product with the form. If is is not exactly right, find the right one. It must list the model/product name & manufacturer.

Below are some suggestions:SDS

  • What is the date of the SDS?
    • is it the most recent?
    • when was it last updated?
  • Look at section 2/3 (Hazardous components) VERY carefully.
    • google the CAS# and find the name (they sometimes hide the true-name)
    • look at the % of each component
    • what is the listed exposure limit? Is it correct? What about other recommended limits?
    • remember the hazard is only listed in this area if it is greater than 1% of the total
  • Look through each section mindful of how you will be using the product.
    • for example: if you are going to be burning the product, usually the SDS will not address these types of concerns/exposures
    • what are the required PPE during “regular use”
    • what happens if you use this product in a confined area?
    • does the manufacturer recommend air monitoring? when?
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency procedures
    • what if it spills?
    • disposal?
    • what can cause exposure? inhalation? skin?
  • Look at the other sections with a inquisitive eye
    • do they list other chemicals, which are NOT included in the product section? why?
    • do they mention Proposition 65?
  • Finally,
    • post/make available a copy wherever it’s needed
    • make sure you know the product

It is a mixed-bag when it comes to the quality of SDS from a manufacturer. Some of them will work with you, others are a total-pain. Remember it is YOUR RIGHT to know about the products you use. If you don’t feel comfortable with the information they’ve given you, call them. OR, go find another product.

The new global harmonization system (GHS) is officially adopted by OSHA. Each state run program is rolling out their acceptance of the new changes. Where I live, we have until December 2013 to train employees in this new type of hazard communication.

Honestly, I’m NOT too EXCITED about it. But, I’m trying to have a good attitude. Below are some good things which may occur:

  • Raise the level of awareness of hazardous materials & their toxicity
  • Train employees (hopefully, retrain) on how to handle chemicals
  • More training = less citations. (?) OSHA’s top ten citations include #3 – hazard communication. Maybe people will actually do the training?! (my guess is that there will be more citations)
  • Consistent information worldwide.  All UN countries should have the same format. (this might take years)
  • Proprietary information will be more visible on the SDS. In the new rules, manufacturers are required to list the % of their proprietary ingredients.
  • Pictograms! They’re so cool. My favorite is the exploding person.
  • Maybe this is my favorite?!: Manufacturers will have to look again at their products and classify them according to the physical & health criteria. Nowadays with more relevant information from worldwide occupational exposure limits, it might help make employers aware of the hazards.
    • This might help OSHA enforce newer exposure limits (other than the 1978 AGCIH TLVs).

How do you plan on training your employees? If you need help, contact me here.



When clients ask me to assist in choosing a product, I try to recommend a product with the least dangerous chemicals in it. I understand this isn’t always possible. However, I try to emphasize the worst case health scenarios and leave it up to the company to decide how to proceed. There are reasons to use a hazardous (to your health) product.

However, here are some considerations when choosing a hazardous product:

  • more hazard vs less cost
  • more hazard vs less time actually using product
  • more hazard vs cost of PPE
  • more hazard vs what the spec says
  • more hazard vs different hazard
  • more hazard vs terrible health effect/potential
  • more hazard vs perception by others on the project (by the GC/public/subcontractors, media, neighbors)

Another issue with chemicals is the names and nomenclature. There are so many different names, common names, chemical names, and sub names of products – it gets confusing.

One solution called,, offers a unique way of considering other chemicals. Plug in the CAS# (Chemical Abstract Number) or the name, and it gives you some ideas.

Another alternative in choosing the best product is to ask.

  • Ask your industrial hygienist if this product is safe and/or are there concerns?
  • Ask the GC if this is the only product that can be used
  • Ask the architect if there are alternatives that are equally effective
  • Ask the manufacturer if they have comparable products without the XXX hazard

The new standard for material safety data sheets (MSDS) which incorporate the global harmonization system (GHS) rules are coming.

Federal OSHA has approved the rules, and in our state, Oregon, they have been proposed, with an adoption to take place in December 2013.

It’s time to panic!… No. Not really.

Most employers will have until December of 2013 to implement the rules. OSHA will be publishing additional (and hopefully, helpful) information on what to do. For most employers it will mean you need to do a few major things:

  • Train your employees on the new rules
  • Reclassify (rename) the hazards, mainly the flammable ones, which have changed the most.

If you really need help with this, or feel like you can’t wait until OSHA publishes more information, email or find me here and we can discuss.

After performing an industrial hygiene survey (air monitoring), have you considered when you should resample? Here are some considerations that might help you in determining when.

  • Are there specific rules that state when you must resample? For example, the construction lead standard (1926.62) states that you must resample yearly (or actually, that you can only use relevant results for one year).
  • Has the process changedsince the last time you sampled? This one is hard to determine. Lot of things can change air monitoring results, here’s a “starter list” of things that can change a process.
    • Different employee?
    • Time of year? Summer versus winter? (closed up/open and humidity)
    • Is a new tool in place?
    • Has the ventilation changed?
    • Have new controls been put in place? (administrative, systems operations)
  • Has the product changed? Check the safety data sheet (aka MSDS).
  • Are more (or less) employees exposed to this hazard? This might change some assumptions you have made about your risk.?

If you have air sampling performed, make sure you have a written report of your findings. Laboratory results without an explanation of how they sampled, where, # of employees, process description, PPE used, safety data sheets, etc….is worthless. You may remember is well enough, but OSHA will have a hard time believing that it is a similar exposure the next time you do the “exact same thing”.

Having this report and sharing it with the employees will fulfill (part of) the hazard communication standard requirement to employees.




The big industrial hygiene conference (AIHCe) is held in a different city each year. This year was Indy, Indiana. Below is my personal top ten list  of “lessons learned” from last week.

  1. IH’s need to do a better job of sharing. We don’t share data, experiences, information, knowledge or our ideas well.
  2. CPWR is trying to share. Center for Construction Research & Training.  I’m looking forward to seeing their published independent review of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) units.
  3. The minimum exhaust rate for a portable exhaust unit must be 106 cfm (cubic feet per min) to capture particulates (dust, silica) during tuckpointing with a 5 in grinder (but it’s also a good rule of thumb).
  4. Asphalt milling machines are still a huge silica problem. Water controls are NOT enough. You need a local exhaust system too. (here’s an earlier post I made on it)
  5. GHS Safety Data Sheets – it’s not as complicated as you think. There are some significant changes, but don’t worry, OSHA’s here to help (ha). Seriously, more information will be available soon.
  6. Ignite. Have you seen these before? Short, stand up speeches about their ideas/passions. Similar to TED. Some were better than others. But, did I mention they were short?
  7. Committees. Be careful when you open your mouth. My idea was so great, they are making me do it.
  8.  ANSI A10.49! A health standard for construction. Great idea, but lots of work.
  9. Check out Environment for Children. I don’t know much about it, but they have a great mission.  Believe me, in the US, we’re WAY ahead.
  10. Presentation. It’s all up to you to make it. I will not cast blame on those who had bad presentations. BUT, it reminds me that I should work on this skill. Even if you have something good to say, if you give a horrible presentation, it’s likely no one will notice. On the other side, if your presentation is good, people will listen, even if you’re talking about nothing!  My favorite of the week: Dr. Mike Morgan (Univ. of Washington) on Chromium VI. He was very factual, not too flashy, and make the point without needless details.