TB Articles

Hazard Communication Standard

istock toolbox talks a w logoChemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation to the eyes and skin; sensitization – meaning your body can no longer tolerate exposure to the chemical; and carcinogenicity – a potential for cancer) and physical hazards (such as being flammable, corrosive, and reactive). OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is designed to ensure that information about these hazards and associated protective measures is provided to all employees who may be at risk.  This is accomplished implementing a written hazard communication program, ensure all containers are properly labeled, show employees how to access Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), and train employees on the hazards associated with the chemicals they will use.

The HCS provides people the right-to-understand the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to in the workplace. When employees have this information, they may effectively participate in their employers’ protective programs and take steps to protect themselves. In addition, the standard gives employers the information they need to design and implement an effective protective program for employees potentially exposed to hazardous chemicals. Together these actions will result in a reduction of chemical source illnesses and injuries in American workplaces.

Basic Chemical Safety

  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment when handling chemicals.
  • Follow company disposal procedures for chemicals no longer needed.
  • Bring only the amount of chemicals needed for the shift to the work area.
  • Never mix chemicals unless specific information is provided to do so.
  • Store chemicals in designated areas.

Primary routes of entry – chemicals can enter the body in a number of ways.

  • Inhalation – Breathing in chemicals.
  • Ingestion – Swallowing chemicals (chemicals may contact food/drink through direct contact or by not washing hands prior to consumption of the food or drink.
  • Injection – Chemicals may be on surfaces; skin is cut or abraded by the contaminated surface.
  • Skin absorption – some chemicals will migrate through the skin surface even without physically touching the skin; chemicals that do this have exposures limits preceded by the letter “C”
  • Skin contact – the skin surface directly contacts the chemical causing burns, irritation, etc.

Additional Practices

  • Avoid unnecessary exposures to chemicals.
  • Follow instructions on the container label, posted signs, and SDSs.
  • Wash hands and face prior to consuming food or drink, smoking, applying make-up, etc.
  • When laundering clothes at home, wash work clothes separately from other clothing.
  • Keep your work are as clean as possible.
  • Use chemicals in well-ventilated areas.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment as instructed.

Report any spilled chemicals or unusual odors, unusual sounds and conditions that may indicate that chemicals have been released in the area.


Safe Use of Hand Trucks

istock toolbox talks a w logoWhat's the best way to move something? Ask someone else to do it for you! What's the next best way? Be sure you know the proper way to move materials yourself.

If you could transfer the risk of handling heavy, large and awkward items and not get hurt, wouldn't you do it? However, for many people who must move heavy items on a regular basis at work or at home, this is not a reality. One of the best ways to avoid suffering a muscle strain or sprain is to use a hand truck. The use of this tool also increases productivity and lessens the chance of dropping and damaging merchandise.

Although hand trucks appear to be fairly simple devices, users must remember a few basic safety procedures:
  • Use a hand truck that is appropriate for the job and the load to be carried.
  • When stacking items on the truck, keep the heaviest load on the bottom to lower the center of gravity.


  • Balance the load forward on the axle of the hand truck, so the weight will not be carried by the handle.
  • Never stack items so high that you can't see where you're going.
  • When carrying multiple boxes side by side, attempt to stagger them to "lock in" the boxes.
  • Be sure the items to be transported on the hand truck are sturdy enough to be moved in this manner. Secure any bulky, awkward or delicate objects to the truck.
  • Plan your route. Be aware of potential hazards to be encountered during the path of travel.
  • As a rule, avoid walking backwards with a hand truck. Remember the back care rule: It is safer to push than to pull.
  • Hand truck injuries typically occur by getting your hand pinched between the handles and a nearby stationary object, so take care when working your way through tight spaces. The use of gloves can provide extra protection.
  • Always maintain a safe speed and keep the hand truck under control.
  • Always park the trucks in a designated area, never in aisles or other places where they may cause a trip hazard or traffic obstruction. Two wheeled trucks should be stored on the chisel with handles leaning against a wall.

When you use a hand truck properly, it does the job and reduces the chance you'll strain a muscle or be injured. Let the truck do the work for you!


Hand Tool Safety

istock toolbox talks a w logoHammers, wrenches, chisels, pliers, screwdrivers, and other hand tools are often underrated as sources of potential danger. Hand tools may look harmless, but they are the cause of many injuries. In fact, an estimated 8 percent of all workplace compensable injuries are caused by incidents associated with hand tools. These injuries can be serious, including loss of fingers or eyesight.

Hand tools can cause many types of injuries:

  • Cuts, abrasions, amputations, and punctures. If hand tools are designed to cut or move metal and wood, remember what a single slip can do to fragile human flesh.

  • Repetitive motion injuries. Using the same tool in the same way all day long, day after day, can stress human muscles and ligaments. Carpal tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the nerve sheath in the wrist) and injuries to muscles, joints and ligaments are increasingly common if the wrong tool is used, or the right tool is used improperly. Injury from continuous vibration can also cause numbness or poor circulation in hands and arms.

  • Eye injuries. Flying chips of wood or metal are a common hazard, often causing needless and permanent blindness.

  • Broken bones and bruises. Tools can slip, fall from heights, or even be thrown by careless employees, causing severe injuries. A hammer that falls from a ladder is a lethal weapon.

To avoid such injuries, remember the following safety procedures:

  • Use the right tool for the job. Don't use your wrench as a hammer. Don't use a screwdriver as a chisel, etc. Go back to the tool house and get the right tool in the right size for the job.

  • Don't use broken or damaged tools, dull cutting tools, or screwdrivers with worn tips.

  • Cut in a direction away from your body.

  • Make sure your grip and footing are secure when using large tools.

  • Carry tools securely in a tool belt or box. Don't carry tools up ladders. Use a hoist or rope.

  • Keep close track of tools when working at heights. A falling tool can kill a co-worker.

  • Pass a tool to another person by the handle; never toss it to them.

  • Use the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job. Follow company instructions for selecting and using safety eyewear, steel toed shoes, gloves, hard hats, etc.

  • Never carry sharp or pointed tools such as a screwdriver in your pocket.

  • Select ergonomic tools for your work task when movements are repetitive and forceful.

  • Be on the lookout for signs of repetitive stress. Early detection might prevent a serious injury.

  • Always keep your tools in top condition. A dull blade or blunt point can lead to injury.

  • Store tools properly when you stop work.

By following these precautions, you can help prevent injuries and provide a better workplace for everyone. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


Powder-Actuated Hand Tools

istock toolbox talks a w logoWhenever you operate a powder-actuated hand tool, safe work practices must always be followed. These tools are designed to fire nails or fastening devices into material not easily penetrated such as concrete, steel, and masonry. Unfortunately, they have also been known to fire nails and fastening devices into human flesh.

  • Only qualified persons who have been trained and certified by an authorized instructor should use a powder-actuated tool!

  • Persons using the tools should always have their certification card with them.


  • A powder-actuated tool must never be pointed at anyone, whether it is loaded or not!

  • A powder-actuated tool should never be loaded until it is ready to be used for fastening.

  • The tool should be tested each day prior to use, to assure that safety devices and the tool itself are in proper working condition.

  • Any defective or poorly working tool should be immediately removed from service and tagged as unsafe.

  • Always wear proper protective equipment when operating powder-actuated tools.

    • ANSI-approved eye protection must be worn to guard against possible ricocheting materials. Hearing protection must also be worn.
  • Powder-actuated tools should not be used in areas where flammable or combustible atmospheres may be present. The combination could cause an explosion.

  • When operating a powder-actuated tool, press the tool firmly against the surface into which the fastening device is being driven, so the fastener will not glance off the surface.

  • Never drive a fastener into a "spalled" or chipped surface, i.e., over an uneven area where a previous fastening was unsatisfactory.

  • Do not drive fasteners into easily penetrated material unless that material is backed by an object that will prevent the fastener from passing completely through the material and creating a flying missile hazard on the other side.

    • Never shoot into a surface unless you are certain it will contain the fastener. Take whatever time is necessary to examine both the surface and the opposite side, assuring your safety as well as the safety of others.

Safe operation of powder-actuated tools demands knowledge and the operator's constant alertness. Too many innocent workers have been fatally injured when safety practices were disregarded.

Therefore, before each use of a powder-actuated tool, a complete study of the job task should be assessed and total concentration should be on the job task to be performed.

Powder-actuated tools are only as safe as their operators! WORK SAFELY!


GFCIs at Work and Home

istock toolbox talks a w logoDefinition: GFCI = Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. The GFCI is a fast-acting circuit breaker that senses small imbalances in an electrical circuit caused by the electrical current leaking to ground. If this imbalance occurs, the GFCI shuts off the electricity within a fraction of a second.

How it works: The GFCI device continually matches the amount of current going to an electrical device against the amount of current returning from the device along the electrical circuit path. Whenever the amount "going" differs from the amount "returning" by approximately 5 milliamps, the GFCI interrupts the electric power by closing the circuit within as little as 1/40 of a second.

What a GFCI Can and Can Not do: It does provide protection against the grounding fault--which is the most common form of electrical shock hazard. A grounding fault occurs when a "hot" wire comes into contact with a grounded enclosure. If you happen to be in contact with the grounded enclosure of an electrical tool when a ground fault occurs, you will be subject to a shock unless a GFCI device is in use, and functioning as intended. The GFCI will not protect you from line-to-line contact hazards (i.e., holding two "hot" wires or a hot and a neutral wire in each hand).

Where GFCIs are needed in construction work: Your employer is required to provide approved ground-fault circuit interrupters for all 120-volt, single phase, 15-and 20-ampere receptacle outlets being used on construction sites that are not a part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure. Since extension cords are not part of the permanent wiring, any electrical tools or equipment plugged into extension cords must be protected by a GFCI device. Insulation around flexible extension cord conductors can be damaged through hard usage or excessive wear. If the "hot" wire conductor of the extension cord were to come into contact with the grounding wire conductor, a ground fault would occur. GFCIs should certainly be used in wet environments. When a cord connector is wet, hazardous current leakage can occur to the grounding conductor and to anyone who picks up that connector if they also provide a path to ground. An alternative method of protection is the Assured Equipment Grounding Program. This method is achieved by establishing a direct ground for the equipment and doing a continuity check of the equipment and cords being used.

Where GFCIs are needed at home: The shock hazards of a grounding fault are not isolated to just your work place. A grounding fault may occur at home in areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and basements. You need to be vigilant and make sure that the circuits you are "plugged" into are protected by GFCIs whenever using electrical tools or equipment in potentially wet environments. Most local building codes require receptacles in potentially wet locations, such as near sinks in bathrooms and kitchens, to be equipped with a GFCI device. It is also recommended that you use a GFCI device whenever you have any concerns about the integrity of the tool, equipment, or cord system.

Actions you should take for electrical safety: Always make sure the tools and cords you use are in good working condition and inspect them regularly for any visible damage. Failure in the insulation or grounding protection of your tools or cords could result in ground faults. Use GFCI devices. Take a little extra care so that you will not have a SHOCKING experience.