right-to-know-vs-hazardous-communicationThe details of Community Right-to-Know (RTK) and Hazardous Communication (HAZCOM) both affect how your facility functions.

HAZCOM is one of OSHA’s most important compliance requirements. Its education, training, chemical labeling and safety programs are all designed to increase workers knowledge and understanding, to protect them from exposure to potentially dangerous substances.

HAZCOM compliance includes creating and maintaining a binder that contains a material data safety sheet (MSDS) for every chemical product processed, stored or used at the facility. MSDSs are used to educate workers about what protective clothing or other precautions are needed as well as how to quickly deal with accidental exposure.

For example, workers in an auto body shop may potentially be exposed to harmful spray paint vapors if the ventilation equipment fails or is insufficient. In this case, workers can refer to the appropriate MSDS to determine how to protect themselves using respirators, etc.

Community Right-to-Know takes a broader view.

Whereas HAZCOM focuses on the workplace, RTK focuses on the community at large. Its purpose is to protect people, property and the natural environment from exposure to toxic chemicals during emergency situations. To do that, RTK requires all commercial, public and industrial facilities to take certain ongoing inventory and safety steps.

As with HAZCOM, Community Right-to-Know requires facility managers to maintain an MSDS for each chemical product stored or used on site. In addition, managers must maintain a complete chemical inventory, and file a detailed report with the New York City Department of Environmental Projection and the NYC Fire Department every year on March 1. The chemical inventory should include:

  • Chemical name
  • Amount stored
  • Substance characteristics (delineated by MSDS)
  • Safe treatment and handling methods
  • Potential negative health effects

Community Right-to-Know is based on the belief that education, training and precautionary measures greatly lessen the chance of accidents. And it promotes a clear and complete knowledge of where chemical products are located and in what quantities, enabling emergency responders to know what to expect in advance so they can be best prepared to deal with whatever situation arises and remain safe themselves.

Photo Credit: Tatiana Gerus