NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


Hazard Communications and the Right to Know


Action: OSHA will immediately request that the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health establish a working group on Hazard Communication and the right to know.

Description: OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard, promulgated in 1983 and revised in 1994, was developed to ensure that workers who are potentially exposed to toxic substances are provided useful information about the dangers of these substances and about protective measures needed to work with them safely. The Standard, as intended, has resulted in a large increase in awareness among employers and employees about workplace hazard recognition and control. It has stimulated training programs, labeling efforts, engineering controls of chemical exposures and appropriate use of personal protective equipment. However, the Standard has also received substantial criticism, including that Material Safety Data Sheets are too long, too technical and too confusing; that enforcement of the Standard has focused too heavily on paperwork and minor violations, particularly with regard to relatively low hazard materials such as common consumer products; that the standard requires too much paperwork; and that there has been too little compliance assistance and technical support to employers for this type of performance based standard.

Although some of these criticisms of the rule are exaggerated, OSHA will request the National Advisory Committee on Safety and Health to convene a working group to identify ways to improve hazard communication in the workplace. OSHA will ask to the committee to provide OSHA with recommendations in six months to simplify material safety data sheets, reduce the amount of required paperwork, improve the effectiveness of worker training, and revise enforcement policies to focus on the most serious hazards. In particular, the working group will be asked to consider the possibility of amending the present rule to allow employers to meet their obligation under the standard to provide employees with material safety data sheets if they can obtain and provide these sheets within twenty four hours or immediately in an emergency. This would relieve employers of the burden of keeping voluminous books of data sheets on hand at all times.

Implementation Plan: OSHA will immediately request NACOSH to establish a working group on hazard communication and the right to know.

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.