An employee “right-to-know” law regulates the way information about workplace chemical hazards is communicated to employees. As with most workplace health and safety standards, worker right-to-know laws have developed in large part according to standards adopted under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), a federal law that governs workplace health and safety in the private sector (private businesses and nonprofit organizations). 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, a state plan must contain regulations that are at least as stringent as federal standards. Because Wisconsin does not have its own approved occupational safety and health plan, federal right-to-know standards are the governing law of the state in all private employment. 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.
Worker right-to-know compliance is part of every Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection, regardless of the underlying reason for the inspection. 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 Sec. 1910.1200). There is additional information and a detailed discussion of the federal regulations.