Clear, concise visuals that support 5S and Lean also help streamline hazard communication in industrial environments. The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, also known as HAZCOM, is designed to improve chemical safety in the workplace. The written program for this standard addresses these key elements: hazard identification and inventory, container labeling, safety data sheets, and employee training. 

Compliance with HAZCOM requires proactively identifying hazards, mitigating risks, and providing employees with the tools and information to stay safe. Overlooking best practices for hazard communication leaves businesses susceptible to chemical disasters, injuries, and hefty fines. Implementing Lean and 5S methodologies—sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain—provides a framework to help develop and maintain a HAZCOM program.

Sort Chemical Supplies and Documents for HAZCOM

Sorting is an ideal first step in a hazard communication program because it helps identify and remove irrelevant safety documents and supplies to bring chemical storage and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) stations up to code. 

Sort the chemical supply closets and shelves to remove:

  • Chemicals or solvents that are no longer used or that are expired
  • Associated documentation for any chemicals no longer stored on the premises
  • Specialized personal protective equipment or exposure controls that are not relevant
  • Non-hazardous containers that may be misplaced or taking up space

Also, look for outdated employee manuals or process guides and replace these with up-to-date information. Verify that container labels are current—and dispose of any outdated styles. Review the area’s floor signs, tape, and painted messages highlighting SDS stations and chemical storage cabinets; mark any damaged or inaccurate signage for removal and replacement.

Apply “Set in Order” to Chemical Storage

Using the Set in Order pillar of 5S offers methods for chemical storage that are organized and safe. OSHA does not specify methods for grouping or separating hazardous chemicals so it is up to each facility to organize these supplies. SDSs should also be filed and stored at each marked station. Depending on the facility’s needs, you may consider these options when organizing your chemical containers:

  • By type: Group similar chemicals together, like acids, bases, or things that react with water.
  • By danger level: Keep the most hazardous liquids (like flammables or corrosives) in special cabinets, while less risky ones can go on regular shelves.
  • By where they’re used: Store chemicals close to the workstations that need them the most.

Always follow the storage instructions on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

Visuals provide clear guidance regarding where specific chemicals should be stored to help prevent human error when retrieving or returning chemicals. Ideas for how to use 5S visuals to communicate storage information include:

  • Color-coding containers to match storage cabinets to identify the proper storage location
  • Displaying visual training materials, including references for how to read GHS labels or providing handling tips
  • Ensuring the SDS location is kept clear, is easily accessible, and contains up-to-date information
  • Affixing labels to cabinet doors and signage on floors in front of supply closets identifying the contents (bases, acids, flammable, etc.)
  • Using standardized warning symbols to mark storage for corrosive or flammable liquids with icons that are identifiable at a glance
  • Placing dividers and shelf labels in cabinets to keep reactive chemicals appropriately identified and separated

Shine HAZCOM Locations and Visual Cues

The Shine step of 5S includes cleaning the workplace to help identify abnormal conditions that can lead to compliance issues. The initial Shine phase should provide a thorough cleaning: Wash any grime from shelf or cabinet labels, sweep and mop the floors, dust chemical containers, and tidy SDS storage areas. A sanitary workplace can prevent contaminants from getting into the chemical containers and make sure HAZCOM materials, such as labels and SDSs, aren’t hidden behind clutter.

While cleaning, review cabinets, shelves, and chemical storage locations for:

  • Worn-out floor markings with hard-to-read material warnings (such as flammable or corrosive)
  • Peeling, damaged, or inaccurate cabinet signage
  • Leaking chemical containers 
  • Container labels that are unreadable, ripped, or missing 
  • Miscellaneous items misplaced in SDS stations and chemical cabinets

Ensuring regular cleaning and inspection helps keep the workplace orderly and spot issues with HAZCOM organization before accidents occur. Our durable floor signs and tape are durable enough to withstand cleaning machines and mopping solutions, making upkeep of these essential areas easier. If sign replacement is needed, the markings peel up without leaving residue behind.

Standardize Communication Using GHS

GHS, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling is a program within Hazard Communication. This system standardizes chemical identification through container labels, pictograms, safety data sheets, and training so handling and storage are understood across industries, regardless of language barriers. Streamlining HAZCOM using 5s Standardize techniques and GHS labeling compliance tactics offers an easy-to-follow, uniform labeling process. 

You can further support your chemical labeling strategy using GHS and SDS visual cues, which might include:

  • Color-coded and pictorial custom floor signs featuring universal symbols marking flammable locations, corrosive chemicals, and other hazards 
  • Personal protective equipment signage showing where goggles, gloves, or other safety clothing is required
  • Pre-cut floor kits that maintain a perimeter around SDS stations, eyewash locations, and sinks to keep these vital areas unblocked and accessible

Sustaining a Hazard Communication Program 

The last pillar in 5S is Sustain, which offers solutions for training and visual cues to maintain compliance with HAZCOM requirements. Conduct regular audits of the hazard communication program to identify and address any lapses in the system.

Consider these tips for sustaining HAZCOM processes to prevent GHS and SDS OSHA violations:

  • Integrate hazard communication into your 5S and Lean workflows and perform regular audits to assess how well the systems are working. 
  •  Use visual aids to improve PPE safety compliance.
  • Integrate a variety of training methods, including safety videos, infographics, and a safety school kit, to make complex concepts understandable.
  • Offer hands-on practice reading safety data sheets to facilitate recognition and comprehension.
  • Include an SDS training center on the shop floor as an additional resource for employees.

Once your hazard communication program is up and running, the checks and balances of 5S maintain the processes and improve OSHA compliance in the workplace. For more information about continuous improvements for safety and efficiency, visit our Resource Center.