Your employer must provide information on all hazardous materials used in your workplace. That's the law. You must be told what products contain, what they can do to you and what you can do to protect yourself and co-workers from injury and illness.
RIGHT TO KNOW REQUIREMENTS
1) WRITTEN PROGRAM: Employers must have a written plan which describes how the employer is complying with the Right to Know law.
2) LABELS: All containers of hazardous chemicals have to carry a label identifying the manufacturer and the product and warning of hazards.
3) MATERIAL DATA SAFETY SHEETS (MSDS): For every hazardous material an MSDS must be available. The MSDS provides detailed information on toxic ingredients, health effects, and special handling procedures.
4) TRAINING: Employers must provide training to all workers who might be exposed to hazardous chemicals at work.
When evaluating chemicals, the chemical supplier must report any human or animal studies which indicate health effects. This is to insure that workers who are exposed to the chemicals have the most complete hazard information.
The main exception to the Right to Know law is hazardous wastes, which are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The law also does not apply to tobacco products, food, drugs or cosmetics used by workers. Chemicals in sealed packages which are being transported are not covered as long as the seals remain intact.
Finally, agricultural employers do not have to comply with provisions of the law for pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides which are regulated under existing federal law.
This written plan must be available to workers and union representatives. The lack of a written plan is the most often cited violation of state safety laws.
The label has to provide three different types of information:
1) identity of the product. This can be the chemical name, brand name or trade name. The same name must appear on the MSDS.
2) An appropriate hazard warning, including information on health effects and safety hazards.
3) The name and address of the supplier.
MATERIAL DATA SAFETY SHEETS
A complete MSDS will include the following information:
1) Identity of hazardous ingredients.
No blank spaces are permitted on the MSDS; however, the supplier may indicate that information is unknown or not applicable.
ACCESS TO MSDSs
1) The MSDSs must be readily accessible during each work shift to workers when they are in their work area(s). Union representatives must also have access to the MSDSS.
1) when a new worker is hired
The training program must cover these topics:
Simply giving a worker an MSDS to read or showing a 30 minute video does not meet the requirements. The training must ex- plain the hazards of specific chemicals and how to use available information. It should give workers a chance to ask questions, and based on SEMCOSH experience, should be at least 4 hours long. Annual re- fresher training is strongly recommended.
RED TAGGING UNKNOWNS
After a complaint has been filed the state must conduct an investigation within 24 hours. If, given a reasonable opportunity to do so, the employer does not provide the required label and MSDS or satisfy the inspector that the chemical is not hazardous, the inspector may red tag the container. Workers cannot handle that container until the employer provides the label and MSDS and the inspector removes the red tag.
But don't hold your breath waiting for an inspector to show up. If you want justice you have to get organized and work for it.
Workers and union representatives should work to encourage management to observe the Right to Know law.