Penalty-for-Late-Right-To-Know-FilingWARNING: Submitting your Right to Know filing late can be hazardous to your health, causing insomnia, stomach aches, headaches, an overwhelming sense of guilt, fear and self-loathing.

OK, we may be exaggerating a bit here, but not necessarily by much. Health-related side-effects of procrastination can be as dangerous and disruptive as financial penalties, because they eat into your ability to get any productive work done. Work such as finalizing your Community Right to Know filing and getting it out of the way.

And if you don’t file your Right to Know paperwork on time, there are very real financial penalties. You want to do everything you can to avoid them. Besides, you – and probably those who work with you – will be happier if you just get it done and move on.

To motivate you, let’s look at those penalties a little more closely:

  • If you fail to submit your Facility Inventory Form (FIF) and all the accompanying documents, your file can range from $500-$5000. That’s if it’s your first offense. Second offenses run significantly more, from $3500-$10,000. It’s the same if you’ve previously filed a full submission but fail to file an annual update.
  • If you don’t provide a Material Safety Data Sheet for every hazardous substance or ingredient you’re reporting, fines can run $500. Per sheet.
  • If your facility houses more than 25 different reportable hazardous substances, fines automatically increase.
  • If you’re reporting any Extremely Hazardous Substances, fines automatically increase.

There are penalties associated with failure to comply with other Right to Know requirements, too. For instance, you have to open your doors for official inspection of your premises, if asked to do so. Here’s what could happen if you incur inspection-related infractions:

  • If you fail to properly label substances, the fines are the same as for failing to file your annual inventory report. That’s for each unlabeled or wrongly labeled chemical.
  • If you deny access to an official inspector, you could be liable for penalties of $2500-$20,000 if it’s a first offense. Willful refusal or physical interference could earn you another $5000.

And if you’re required to create and file a Risk Management Plan and annual update, failure to comply can result in fines of $1000-$5000 the first time, $3500-$10,000 for a second offense.

No wonder you feel sick.

You know it’s a requirement. The Right to Know filing deadline is always March 1st. If you miss it, your second-best option is to submit your documents as quickly as possible, even if they are late. You might get some leniency on the fines if you’re at least trying. In fact, in some cases the regulations allow for reductions in penalties if you turn in your paperwork before your first non-compliance hearing is scheduled.

The law is clear regarding what constitutes compliance and what does not.

The Right to Know filing guidelines list what you need to submit, and even in what order. If it’s not all there, it’s as if you filed nothing.

Deliberately skipping the filing process might indicate to public officials that you’re hiding something. You don’t want to draw that kind of attention to your business or your individual facilities. And you certainly don’t want to develop a reputation as shady or uncooperative.

Government paperwork is a pain, but in this case it’s for a good cause.

There are “social” penalties, too, if you don’t comply with filing requirements. The purpose of the Community Right to Know program is to ensure health and safety. It might be time-consuming and annoying to fill out all those forms, but consider the fact that having that information immediately at hand helps protect your employees and your facilities from dangerous situations. And it protects first responders if there’s every an emergency.

All in all, timely filing is the only guarantee you won’t be penalized.

Photo Credit: Tax Credits