Dental Professionals

Major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard

New changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard are bringing the United States into alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, further improving safety and health protections for America’s workers.

Building on the success of OSHA’s current Hazard Communication Standard, the GHS is expected to prevent injuries and illnesses, save lives and improve trade conditions for chemical manufacturers. Issued in March 2012, the new standard will prevent an estimated 43 deaths and result in an estimated $475.2 million in enhanced productivity for U.S. businesses each year.

Dental health care providers and employers are required to comply with these new directives, because there is risk of exposure to chemicals used in dental care delivery as well as those involved in cleaning and disinfecting the dental workplace. OSHA outlines three major changes – hazard classification, labeling and safety data sheets.

Hazard classification
The new, updated standard provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards, as well as classification of chemical mixtures. This will ensure evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and labels and safety data sheets are more accurate.

Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category.

Labels for a hazardous chemical must contain:

  • Name, address and phone number
  • Product identifier
  • Signal word
  • Hazard statement(s)
  • Precautionary statement(s)
  • Pictogram(s)

As of June 1, 2015, the HCS will require pictograms on labels. Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents a distinct hazard. How will this impact the dental health care team? Employers will be responsible for maintaining labels on containers, so they do not become faded, removed or illegible.

All team members should be familiar with the new labels as they arrive on products/supplies. According to OSHA, employers have the option to create their own workplace labels with the required information.

Safety data sheets

Starting in June 2015, the HCS also requires manufacturers, importers and distributors to provide safety data sheets, formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets.These updated information sheets must be presented in a consistent, user friendly, 16-section format. OSHA states employers must ensure that SDSs are kept in a binder or on computers, as long as there is a backup so that they are readily accessible to employees.

Implementing and training
The HCS is intended to benefit workers by reducing confusion about chemical hazards in the workplace, facilitate safety training and improve understanding. It will not be fully implemented until 2016. In the meantime, phase-in dates have been delineated for compliance. By Dec. 1, 2013, employers are required to train dental team members on the new labeling and SDS format. Ordinarily, dental offices do not store large amounts of hazardous chemicals.

However, it is important for dental team members to be aware of any hazards they may encounter from the materials used in the practice of dentistry. References and additional information available at

Dental Professionals