The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) or the Right-to-Know Law
Work-related injuries always register a high rate of claims lawsuits every year in the United States. Before 1908, employees who sustained injuries during the performance of their job or who developed medical conditions due to exposure to improperly labeled or stored hazardous chemicals had to resort to filing a lawsuit against their employers just to avail of financial assistance that will help them get through financial worries. Employees, however, often lost in those lawsuits.
Industrial and agricultural workers are the ones who usually sustain injuries or develop medical conditions as they are the ones regularly exposed to dangerous equipment and hazardous chemicals. Hazardous chemicals, though, inflict harm that is not immediately obvious to exposed workers. The effect of inhaling the fumes of these chemicals is what is severely damaging as this can lead to different health conditions, such as skin rashes, poisoning, and liver, kidney or lung disease. Some of the chemicals which can cause these conditions are acid, disinfectants, caustic substances, paint, glue, pesticide, heavy metals, like lead, mercury, cadmium and aluminum, solvents and petroleum products.
In 1970 the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed into law by the United States Congress. The Act, in turn, created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which would ensure that workers are protected from getting injured or developing illnesses during their employment.
Ten years after its creation, OSHA enacted the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which became effective in 1986 and which gave those who are exposed to dangerous chemicals in the workplace the right to know all about the hazards they were exposed to and how they can protect themselves from such hazards.
The HCS is otherwise called the Worker Right-to-Know Legislation or the Right-to-Know law. This law is now observed in all sectors to ensure the safety of all employees in the workplace. This law has, likewise, mandated importers and manufacturers of hazardous substances to attach warning labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on all of their products. Besides the words ‘hazardous,’ and ‘poisonous,’ other information that must be included are the product’s potential health effects, safe storage suggestions, emergency first aid instructions, precautions for use and numbers to be contacted for further information.
Besides the OSHA, other laws have also been passed by the US Congress to ensure that employees who still sustain injuries or develop diseases, especially lung diseases, in the workplace are no longer left with the possibility of financial crises. These laws include the Workers’ Compensation Benefit of 1908 and the Social Security Act of 1935; both laws are intended to provide immediate financial benefits to workers, covering wages lost, cost of medical treatment, disability or death.
Causes of work-related illnesses are completely preventable and that lack of sufficient safety gears and safe workplace protocols is completely a lack of responsibility on the part of the employer. If injuries and illnesses remain prevalent in the workplace, then maybe it is only right that you let the authorities deal personally with your erring and uncaring employer.