Occupational Safety & Health:

Employers' Experiences in Complying With the Hazard Communication Standard

HRD-92-63BR: Published: May 8, 1992. Publicly Released: May 8, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed small businesses' compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to identify work-place chemical hazards, focusing on the: (1) difficulties small employers experienced in complying with HCS, in particular with the material safety data sheet (MSDS) requirements; and (2) methodology underlying the OSHA cost estimates for small nonmanufacturing industries' compliance with MSDS requirements.

GAO found that: (1) although almost 70 percent of the small employers surveyed who appeared to be complying with HCS reported little difficulty with either of the two MSDS requirements, almost 80 percent of them reported problems in complying with HCS training requirements; (2) over half of the small employers experienced some cost increases in complying with HCS paperwork and clerical requirements, but fewer than 20 percent reported great or very great cost increases; (3) although the OSHA approach for estimating nonmanufacturing employers' compliance costs was sound, GAO could not assess the accuracy of OSHA cost calculations due to data limitations; (4) about 45 percent of all employers that appeared to be complying with HCS reported that, on balance, HCS had benefited workers, compared with about 9 percent that reported that HCS had a negative effect and 36 percent that reported that it had equally positive and negative effects or no effects at all; (5) over 56 percent of employers reported a great or very great improvement in the availability of hazard information in the work place and in management's awareness of work-place hazards; and (6) about 30 percent of employers stated that MSDS information caused them to replace hazardous chemicals used in their work places.