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Is Language a Barrier to Your Company’s Safety?

Thursday, December 27, 2012
Is Language a Barrier to Your Company’s Safety?

A language barrier was partially responsible for the accidental release of a harmful chlorine gas at a Tyson Foods plant in Arkansas that resulted in the hospitalization of more than 150 workers, according to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control.

The incident occurred when a Tyson Foods employee added bleach to a 55-gallon drum containing a residual solution of an acidic antimicrobial agent. Investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health determined that the worker was unable to read the English-language label on the barrel of chemicals.

The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of ensuring all employees can read and understand labels, training materials and safety resources.

In 2012, OSHA adopted the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication (GHS), which mandates that all hazardous material labeling should include symbols understood by all workers.

Pictograms Under GHS

As part of the changes resulting from OSHA’s modification of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to adopt the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), standardized pictograms will be a required on all chemical labels.

Understandable in any language, pictograms are a universal way to warn of health, physical and environmental hazards. OSHA requires 8 of the 9 possible GHS pictograms to be used in communicating hazards. The ninth pictogram, Environmental, is under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States.

Pictograms are denoted by red frames, which are required regardless of whether the shipment is domestic or international. OSHA requires that all red borders printed on the label have a pictogram printed inside it, as blank red borders could cause confusion and concern that some information is missing. Images in combination with red borders on labels are necessary to provide the maximum recognition and impact of warning labels. For your own safety, familiarize yourself with the potential hazards associated with each pictogram.

Pictograms and their corresponding hazards:

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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