Hazard communication standards, or worker “right-to-know” laws, regulate how information about toxic chemicals and hazardous substances in the workplace is communicated to employees. As with most workplace health and safety standards, right-to-know laws have developed in large part according to standards adopted under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which covers private sector employees. The law allows individual states to devise and administer their own work safety laws and regulations, but only if the state program has federal approval. To qualify for approval, a state plan must be at least as stringent as the federal law.
The federal law is basically a disclosure rule that requires private employers with hazardous substances in their workplaces to develop comprehensive hazard communication programs and to inform and train their employees about chemical hazards in the workplace.
Right-to-know compliance is part of every Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection, regardless of the underlying reason for the inspection. Worker right-to-know violations are the most frequent source of OSHA citations. Beyond the physical dangers a violation may create for employees and employers, substantial fines may be imposed, making right-to-know compliance a high priority for just about every employer (29 CFR 1910.1200).