The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on August 19 extended to "almost every workplace in the country" the Hazard Communication Standard, which is OSHA's "worker right to know" rule.
The old rule covered 14 million workers (employed in 300,000 shops), requiring employers to inform their workers about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Employers must label containers holding any of 2300 OSHA-listed hazardous chemicals. The revised rule adds another 18.5 million workers (in 3.5 million shops). The old rule covered only manufacturing jobs; the new rule covers the construction and transportation industries, service industries, plus wholesale and retail trades, so long as those workers are exposed to hazardous substances on the job.
Requirements of the new rule will be phased in and will become fully effective on May 20, 1988. OSHA estimates that the expanded coverage will prevent 4100 cancer deaths per year, cutting cancer deaths in the nonmanufacturing sector by 20%.
The revised rule is expected to preempt many state and local right-to-know laws. Issuance of the revised rule was required by a judge in response to a lawsuit originally filed by the United Steelworkers of America.
For further information, contact Akio Konoshima, OSHA, Office of Information, Room N-3647, 200
Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210; phone (202) 5238151.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: rtk; occupational safety and health; osha; hazard communication rule; hazard communication standard; lawsuits; labor unions;