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Right-to-Know Laws

28 October, 2015 - 17:13

The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) or more simply, right-to-know laws, were established by Congress in 1986. The purpose of this act was to require local and state governments to provide emergency response plans to respond to a chemical emergency.  1The other requirement is that these plans must be reviewed on an annual basis. Companies that handleextremely hazardous substances (EHSs) in large quantities must develop response plans as well. In addition, any organization that manufactures, processes, or stores certain hazardous chemicals must make available to local fire departments and state and local officials material data safety sheets. The material data safety sheet should also be provided to employees, as the data lists not only the chemical components but health risks of the substance, how to handle the material safely, and how to administer first aid in the case of an accident. This requirement also states that inventories of all on-site chemicals must be reported to local and state governments, but the data sheets must also be made public, too.

This law and how it will be reported should be facilitated by the HR professional. Although the HRM may not know the chemical makeup of the materials used, he or she is responsible for facilitating the process to ensure that reporting is done timely and accurately. For organizations that use EHSs often, it is worthwhile to include the reporting process within the orientation training and provide ongoing training as the law changes. The A-Treat Bottling facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, was cited by OSHA for repeat violations of lacking material safety data sheets for the chemicals it uses in manufacturing, among other infractions such as blocked exits and forklift violations. The fines totaled $110,880, and the company had fifteen days to comply or contest the allegations.  2

It is also important to note that some state standards are different from federal standards, which means the HR professional will need to be aware of the laws in the individual state in which the company is operating.

Human Resource Recall

How do you think the OSHA requirements apply to office work settings?