OSHA Right-To-Know Regulations & Compliance Made Easy
OSHA's Right-To-Know regulations not only call for employees to receive initial training, but require that employees knowledge be "refreshed" through retraining on an annual basis.
Chemicals are everywhere. Ingredients in manufacturing operations. Reagents in laboratory processes. Cleaning Solutions (in the plant, office and at home). All of these chemicals are very useful. Some of them can also be hazardous.
This raises important questions: Which chemicals are hazardous? What kinds of danger do they present? What types of precautions should we take when working with them?
This standard is based on a simple concept - that employees have both a need and a right to know the hazards and the identities of the chemicals they are exposed to when working. More than 30 million workers are potentially exposed to one or more chemical hazards. There are an estimated 650,000 existing hazardous chemical products, and hundreds of new ones are being introduced annually. This poses a serious problem for exposed workers and their employers. Read more
These types of questions lead to the development of OSHA's Hazard Communications Standard.
Also lead to other "Right-To-Know" laws (many at the State level). The goal of these regulations is to provide you with what you need to work safely with hazardous chemicals. Information. Training. Equipment.
The Hazard Communication process begins with Chemical Manufacturers. They evaluate the dangers of the chemicals they produce. If a chemical is judged to be hazardous, hazard information must be supplied to: Distributors. Shippers. Customers.
In turn, your company passes this information on to you through: Container Labels. Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Education and Training.
What you, as an employee, need to do is:
- Read Container Labels.
- Read Material Safety Data Sheets.
- Wear appropriate PPE.
- Follow Safe Work Practices.
It is important to know what OSHA means when they say a chemical is "hazardous". Physically dangerous (such as a Flammable or Explosive). Harmful to your health (such as a Poison or Carcinogen).
The federal "Hazard Communications Standard" or "OSHA Right-To-Know Law" as it is more commonly named. The objective of this law is to transmit information concerning the nature of chemical hazards that employees may be exposed to in their work environment and what measures they can take to protect themselves.
A number of chemicals have "physical hazards". Flammable and Combustible liquids give off vapors that will burn. The difference between Flammables and Combustibles istheir "Flashpoint". The temperature at which a liquid gives off vapors that can ignite. Flammables have a Flashpoint below 100o F. Combustibles have a Flashpoint between 100o F and 200o F.
An Explosive is a chemical that will cause a sudden release of pressure, gas or heat if it is subject to: Sudden shock. Pressure. High temperature. Oxidizers are dangerous because they can cause (or help) other chemicals to burn. Release oxygen or other gases that promote combustion.
According to the OSHA right-to-know standard, employees must have access to the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for the hazardous chemicals present in their workplace. These MSDSs must be readily available to the workers and accessible during each work shift.
You also need to be aware of chemicals that can present "Health Hazards". Irritants and Corrosives are one such group of chemicals. Irritants can cause inflammation of:
- Respiratory System.
- Most affects are usually temporary.
Corrosives can cause irreversible damage to parts of the body that they contact. Toxic Substances can also cause significant health problems. Can result in both injuries and disease. Can disrupt ordinary bodily functions (such as breathing or blood circulation). Can be short or long term. Can also have "Target Organ Effects" (damaging specific organs).
Also, almost 40 states have passed their own "Right-To-Know" laws. State legislation has built on the Federal OSHA legislation, and in most cases, the state laws are much more rigorous and require much quicker action than OSHA's regulations.The definition of "potentially hazardous chemicals" varies in all these laws.
Poisons are extremely toxic substances. Can result in significant harm, even in small doses. Can cause death in a short period of time. Carcinogens are another group of health hazards. Can cause cancer. Often ultimately leads to death.
There are number of steps you can take to protect yourself from the effects of hazardous chemicals.
Container Labels provide basic instructions about working safely with a material. Manufacturers label all chemical containers before they are shipped.
Chemicals and other materials present hazards that can threaten the safety, health and lives of workers and members of the public. So how do workers get the information they need to handle materials in ways that protect us all?
Hazardous Gases, Fumes and Vapors can cause serious problems if inhaled. In these situations, get out of the area to fresh air. Get medical attention after any exposure to hazardous chemicals. Some chemicals have delayed or long-term health affects. Initial affects may seem "minor".
If you are dealing with a Spill or Leak you need to know how to perform Clean-up and Disposal. Report the spill to appropriate personnel. Check the MSDS (or your company's Hazcom Plan) for proper clean-up procedures. Remember to wear appropriate PPE. Generally, containing the spill is the top priority. Minimizes contamination. Use a Spill Clean-up Kit to create a barrier.
Once you have contained a spill, you can start cleaning up. You can often absorb the chemical with a "neutral" material. Remember though, not all chemicals should be handled the same way. Know when you are handling Flammables, so you can use non-sparking tools.
The disposal of some chemicals is regulated by government agencies. Many spilled chemicals are classified as Hazardous Waste. Often these must be removed by a licensed Disposal Company. Consult your supervisor or your facility's Safety Manager about these issues.
Chemicals are all around us, at work and at home. Remember that many of these materials can be hazardous. Read the Container Label and MSDS before working with a chemical. Use appropriate PPE. Follow Safe Work Practices. Know what to do in an emergency before it happens. If you have any questions about working with hazardous materials, see you supervisor.
"Right-To-Know" regulations are there to make sure that all of us know how to work with chemicals Safely!
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