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Hazard Communication Policy

Public Health Service
Indian Health Service
Rockvile, Maryland 20857

Refer to: OEHE/EHSB


Effective Date:  04/14/1994



    The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Subsection 1910.1200, established uniform requirements to make sure that the hazards of all chemicals produced, imported, or used within the United States are evaluated and that this hazard information is transmitted to effected employers and employees.  This Standard covers any company that uses hazardous chemicals.

    The Indian Health Service (IHS) Hazard Communication Program is designed to assist each service unit to more easily comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard.

    1. To protect patients, visitors, and IHS personnel from exposure to hazardous materials while in an IHS facility.
    2. To establish procedures for implementing a hazard communication program in an IHS facility.
    3. To define responsibilities of IHS employees under the hazard communication program.
    4. To comply with OSHA regulations 29 CFR, Subsection 1910.1200.

  3. SCOPE.  This Circular applies to all IHS employees, including those assigned to Public Law (P.L.) 93-638 facilities.  The HCS and implementing regulations apply to Indian Self-Determination Act, P.L. 93-638, and Title V urban program contractors as employers.  Tribal contractors are strongly encouraged to adopt this circular.

    1. Chemical name - the-scientific designation of a chemical in accordance with the nomenclature system developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) or the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), or a name that will clearly identify the chemical for the purpose of conducting a hazard evaluation.
    2. Combustible liquid - any liquid having a flashpoint at or above 37.8 C (100 F) but below 93.3 C (200 F), except any mixture having components with flashpoints of 93.3 C (200 C) or higher, the total volume of which makes up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture.
    3. Common name - any designation or identification such as code name, code number, trade name, brand name, or generic name used to identify a chemical other than by its chemical name.
    4. Compressed gas - a gas that falls into one of the following categories:
      1. A gas or mixture of gases having, in a container, an absolute pressure exceeding 40 psi at 21.1 C (70 F).
      2. A gas or mixture of gases having, in a container, an absolute pressure exceeding 104 psi at 54.4 C (130 F) regardless of the pressure at 21.1 C (70 F).
      3. A liquid having a vapor pressure exceeding 40 psi at 37.8 C (100 F) as determined by American Society of Thermal Mechanics D-323-72.
    5. Employee - any worker employed by the IHS including tribal employees, temporaries, contracted workers, repair and maintenance personnel, and volunteers who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals under normal operating conditions or foreseeable emergencies.  Office workers are generally not included, unless their job performance routinely involves potential exposure to hazardous chemicals.
    6. Flammable - a chemical that falls into one of the following categories:
      1. "Aerosol, flammable" is an aerosol that, when tested by the method described in 16 CFR 1500.45, yields a flame projection exceeding 18 inches at full valve opening, or a flashback (a flame extending back to the valve) at any degree of valve opening.
      2. "Gas, flammable" is a gas that at ambient temperature and pressure:
        1. Forms a flammable mixture with air at a concentration of 13 percent by volume or less; or
        2. Forms a range of flammable mixture with air wider than 12 percent of volume, regardless of the lower limit.
      3. "Liquid, flammable" is any liquid having a flashpoint below 37.8 C (100 F), except any mixture having components with flashpoints of 37.8 C (100 F) or higher, the total of which makes up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture.
      4. "Solid, flammable" is a solid, other than a blasting agent or explosive, that is liable to cause fire through friction, absorption of moisture, spontaneous chemical change, or retained heat from manufacturing or processing, or which can be ignited readily and when ignited burns so vigorously and persistently as to create a serious hazard.  A chemical shall be considered to be a flammable solid if it ignites and burns with a self-sustained flame at a rate greater than .254 cm (one-tenth of an inch) per second along its major axis.
    7. Written Hazard Communication Plan - a detailed record of what a specific facility has done to comply with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.  It must include a complete and thorough documentation of the program in place and will serve two purposes:  (1) communication to your employees and (2) communication to OSHA, as to exactly what the service unit has done to comply with the Standard.  This is a very important aspect of an OSHA inspection.
    8. Hazard Communication Standard - the set of regulations issued by OSHA designed to inform employees of the presence of hazardous chemicals in the work place and the methods to minimize exposure.
    9. Hazard Warning - any words, pictures, symbols, or combination thereof appearing on a label or other appropriate form of warning which convey the hazards of the chemical(s) in the container(s).
    10. Health Hazard - a chemical for which there is statistically significant evidence based on at least one study conducted in accordance with established scientific principles that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees.  The term health hazard includes chemicals that are carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents that act on hemopoietic systems, and agents that damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes.
    11. Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) - the written or printed material concerning a hazardous chemical.  The MSDS is prepared in accordance with OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard.
    12. Organic Peroxides - an organic compound that contains the bivalent -O-O- structure and which may be considered to be a structural derivative of hydrogen peroxide where one or both of the hydrogen atoms has been replaced by an organic radical.
    13. Other Qualified Individual - any individual with sufficient training or experience to serve as the Hazard Communication Officer.  See Section 5.D. for a description of duties.
    14. Oxidizer - a chemical other than a blasting agent or explosive that initiates or promotes combustion in other materials thereby causing fire either of itself or through the release of oxygen or other gases.
    15. Physical Hazard - a chemical for which there is scientifically valid evidence that it is a combustible liquid, a compressed gas, explosive, flammable, an organic peroxide, an oxidizer, pyrophoric, unstable (reactive), or water-reactive.
    16. Specific Chemical Identity - the chemical name, Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number, or any other information that reveals the precise chemical designation of the substance.

    1. Headquarters Technical Consultant On Hazard Communication. The Associate Director, Office of Environmental Health and Engineering (OEHE), or a designee, shall be the IHS technical consultant for control of hazardous chemical risks and will provide guidance, administrative support, and monitoring for compliance with the Hazard Communication Program.

      The Associate Director also serves as the official liaison between IHS and OSHA and is responsible for communicating with the Areas on any updates that may occur in the Hazard Communication Standard.

    2. Area Technical Consultant on Hazard Communication.  The Area Associate Director, OEHE, or designee, shall provide guidance, administrative support, and monitoring of implementation strategies to ensure that the service units develop hazard communication programs that are in compliance with OSHA regulations.
    3. Service Unit Director (SUD), Health Director. or P.L.93-638 Program Director.  The Director shall assume responsibility for compliance with 29 CFR 1910.1200 of all facilities and ensure that all department heads comply with the requirements of the service units Written Hazard Communication Plan.  The Director must designate in writing a Safety Officer, Environmental Health Specialist, or other qualified individual as the Hazard Communication Officer who will be responsible for many of the required activities.
    4. Hazard Communication Officer.  The Hazard Communication Officer is responsible for implementing a hazard communication program.  Any problems or noncompliance with the program must be reported to the Director.  The following duties are the responsibility of the Officer:
      1. Write or adapt the IHS Written Hazard Communication Plan.
      2. Ensure that safety orientations include a review of the service units Written Hazard Communication Plan.
      3. Conduct or arrange for periodic safety in-services on the hazard communication program for the entire service unit staff, especially after a major change in the workplace that involves the use of hazardous materials.
      4. Ensure that the service unit hazard surveillance program includes a semi-annual evaluation of hazardous materials and labeling, and determine if the proper safety precautions are being used in the facility when hazardous materials are present.
      5. Maintain a master inventory of all hazardous materials within the facility. Hazardous material data (chemical or common name) for the master inventory will be obtained from each department/service head and will be reviewed annually.
      6. Maintain a master file of all MSDSs within the facility.  The MSDSs will be obtained from each department/service head.
      7. Be the point of contact for contractors working at the facility.  Ensure all appropriate facility MSDSs are provided to the contractors for review.
      8. Ensure the facility is in compliance with the "Community Right-to-Know" requirements as described in the Superfund Amendments Reauthorization Act, Title III, Section 311.  (This may require the provision of MSDSs to the State, city, county, or tribal office as required.)
    5. Department/Service Head.  The department or service head is responsible for the implementation of the Written Hazard Communication Plan that pertains to the department.  The following are duties to be performed by each department head:
      1. Assemble a complete list of all chemicals used within his/her department's day-to-day operations.  This includes cleaning supplies, such as bathroom cleansers and window cleaners and vendor samples being used on a trial basis.  The list must be updated annually and a copy of the list given to the Hazard Communication Officer.
      2. Develop a hazardous chemical inventory list by checking the above list against OSHA-designated lists; Environmental Protection Agency lists; Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents in the Work Environment, American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists; National Toxicology Program Annual Report on Carcinogens (latest edition); International Agency for Research on Cancer monographs; and OSHA's 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart Z, or by reviewing the MSDS information sent by the manufacturer.  Remove those chemicals that are not regulated and what remains will be the hazardous chemical inventory list. See Appendix E for a list of chemicals from some of the above sources.
      3. Show the inventory list to any employee within the department who asks to see it.
      4. Request MSDSs from the manufacturer/distributor for all hazardous materials within the department.  There shall be an MSDS within the department for each hazardous material on the department's inventory list.  A second MSDS shall be sent to the Hazard Communication Officer.  If a manufacturer/distributor does not send an MSDS to the facility then it is the responsibility of the department head to, discontinue using the product.
      5. Show the Written Hazard Communication Plan to any employee within the department who asks to see it.  A copy of the plan must be kept within every department.
    6. Supervisors.  All supervisors are responsible for the following:
      1. Disseminating hazardous chemical information to the employees they supervise.
      2. Providing information and training to those employees on the specific chemical hazards of their department and the appropriate precautions to take.
      3. Conducting Departmental in-services on any precautions needed when working with a hazardous chemical, the hazards of chemicals contained in unlabeled pipes in the department, and the hazards of any nonroutine tasks.
      4. Ordering equipment that is needed to properly handle any hazardous materials in their departments.

    1. Written Plan.  The Written Hazard Communication Plan is the written record of what the service unit will do to comply with the Hazard Communication Standard.  Every step of compliance must be thoroughly documented for OSHA's inspection.

      Service Unit Hazard Communication Officers shall develop and implement a Written Hazard Communication Plan for their workplaces that describes the criteria for labeling hazardous materials, collecting MSDSs for hazardous materials, developing an inventory of all hazardous materials inside the facility, and training new IHS personnel and the entire clinical staff on hazardous materials and any major changes concerning hazardous chemicals.  The Written Hazard Communication Plan will include the following:

      1. A list of the hazardous chemicals known to be present in the IHS facility using an identity that is referenced on the appropriate material safety sheet.  A list should be compiled for each department and a master list should be compiled for the entire facility.
      2. The methods the Hazard Communication Officer and department heads will use to inform employees of the hazards of non-routine tasks and the hazards associated with chemicals contained in unlabeled pipes on their work areas.
      3. The method the facility will use to inform any contractor working in an IHS hospital/clinic of the hazardous chemicals they may be exposed to while working within a particular department.
    2. Labels and Other Forms of Warning.

      All IHS department heads shall ensure that labels or other forms of warning are legible, written in English, and prominently displayed on the container or readily available in the work area throughout each shift.

      Department heads are not required to label portable containers into which hazardous chemicals are transferred from labeled containers, and which are intended only for the immediate use by the employee who performs the transfer.

      The IHS personnel shall not remove or deface existing labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals, unless the transfer or secondary container is immediately marked with the required information.

    3. Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

      Each Department Head shall request and maintain copies of required MSDSs for each hazardous chemical in the workplace, and shall ensure that they are readily accessible during each work shift to employees when they are in their work areas.  A copy of each MSDS shall be sent to the Hazard Communication Officer.

      The IHS warehouses that act as distributors of hazardous chemicals must provide copies of MSDSs for those products.  The MSDSs are not required to be physically attached to a shipment, but they must accompany or precede the shipment.  In cases where repetitive shipments are made to the same service unit, the initial shipment must provide an MSDS; subsequent shipments may provide an MSDS.

      An MSDS should contain information on the following topics: chemical identity, hazardous ingredients, physical and chemical characteristics, physical hazards, health hazards, primary route(s) of entry, exposure limits, precautions for safe handling, control measures such as personnel protective equipment, emergency and first aid procedures, date of preparation of the MSDS, and a responsible party such as the manufacturer or importer.

      Some MSDSs may be labeled "Proprietary Compound," which indicates a trade secret.  The names of hazardous chemicals may be withheld under the HCS trade secret provisions if sufficient worker protection information is provided on the MSDS. Occupational health services professionals have the right to request full details on trade secret chemical identities under paragraph (i)(12) of the HCS, if the individual can demonstrate a "need-to-know" and if the information can be treated confidentially.

    4. Employee Information and Training.

      The Hazard Communication Officer shall provide all service unit employees with the following information at the time of their initial assignment:

      1. The requirements of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard including an explanation of the labeling system, the MSDS, and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information.
      2. The location and availability of the written Hazard Communication Plan, including the required list(s) of hazardous chemicals, and MSDSs required by the Standard.

      Each Supervisor or Department Head shall provide orientation training specific to their department, and shall inform new employees of the following:

      1. Any operations in their work area where hazardous chemicals are present.
      2. The physical and health hazards of the chemicals in the work area.
      3. The physical and health hazards of new chemicals as they are introduced into the work area.
      4. Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area (hazard surveillance, continuous monitoring devices, visual appearance or odors of hazardous chemicals when being released, etc).
      5. The measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards, including specific procedures the Hazard Communication Officer or department head has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as appropriate work practices, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment to be used.

      There are some specific chemicals for which annual training is required by OSHA.  Some examples of these chemicals are asbestos, formaldehyde, and ethylene oxide.

    5. Surveillance.

      There shall be semi-annual hazard surveillance of the facility to identify new hazardous materials introduced into the work place, determine if MSDSs have been ordered for hazardous materials, determine if all hazardous materials are properly labeled, and determine if employees in the work place are using the necessary safeguards to protect themselves from hazardous materials.  The results of the surveillance will be documented and the SUD will be notified of any noncompliance with the hazard communication program.  This requirement is one facet of the facility's complete hazard surveillance program and should be done in conjunction with other safety requirements.  See Indian Health Manual Part 1, Chapter 9, "Occupational Safety and Health Program," for additional information on surveillance.


    This circular is effective upon date of signature.  All IHS facilities shall comply with this circular immediately, including initial training for all current employees.

    /Michael H. Trujillo, M.D./
    Michael H. Trujillo, M.D., M.P.H.
    Director, Indian Health Service

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