How does the Community Right-to-Know improve Hazard Communication?

Hazardous materials – Increasing Employee and Community Awareness

Hazardous Materials and Hazard CommunicationEver since the 1984 Bhopal, India disaster, in which over 2,000 people died due to the accidental release of methyl isocyanate, Congress has imposed numerous reporting  requirements at the federal and state levels through the Community Right -to- Know Act.  This Act serves to increase the public’s knowledge of the hazardous materials being stored or used in facilities throughout their community.   This Act also serves to improve hazardous materials handling, storage , and hazard communication in several ways.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

The first requirement under the Community Right- to-Know Act is that facilities must maintain a MSDS for all hazardous materials used in thier workplace.  While there are some exemptions to this requirement, primarily around those hazardous materials that are in consumer quantities, MSDS’s are an essential component of hazard communication.  MSDSs facilitates employee awareness of the hazards of each of the materials and serves to protect them as well as the community. The acquisition and maintenance of an MSDS serves to protect the community because the MSDS provides information on chemical spill procedures, proper handling and storage that can be used to prevent a hazardous materials release that may adversely affect the health and safety of the community.

In addition, if any of the individual hazardous materials are present above certain quantities, the facility containing the hazardous materials must submit a copy of the applicable MSDS to the State Emergency Response Commission, the Local Emergency Planning Department and the local Fire Department. This is an essential step in hazard communication because it provides the emergency responders in the community with enough knowledge on the hazardous materials to respond efficiently in the event of an accidental release of the hazardous materials. For instance, in the Bhopal India incident, accident prevention and public health was not among the city’s priorities, and for this reason, many were unable to prevent or respond effectively  to the disaster.

Hazardous Materials Inventory

Thirdly, facilities must report an annual inventory of hazardous materials to the State Emergency Response Commission, Local Emergency Planning Department and Fire Department.  This is important because  the emergency response specialists need to understand the scope of a potential spill or leak, so that they can protect the health of the public.

In addition,  the EPA and the states must collect data annually on releases and transfers of certain toxic chemicals from industrial facilities and make the data available to the public through the Toxic Release Inventory.   This is significant because the Toxic Release Inventory contains data on the disposal or other releases of over 600 chemicals and information on how facilities manage those chemicals.   This program is vital to hazard communication because it informs communities about the toxic chemical releases to the environment in an easily accessible manner.

Conclusion – Hazardous Materials Awareness

Overall, the Community-Right-to-Know Act informs the public on the hazardous materials in their area and thus serves to protect them from chemical accidents that may occur in the community. It serves to keep the local community aware of the steps to be taken in the event of an emergency.

Compliance with the Community Right-to-Know requirements and Hazard Communication requirements is complex.  Affygility Solutions offers Affytrac, a simple, affordable compliance management software solution.  Contact Affygility Solutions today, to find out how Affytrac can help.


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About Dean Calhoun

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Dean is the President and CEO of Affygility Solutions. Affygility Solutions provides environmental, health and safety software, potent compound safety, industrial hygiene, containment validation services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industry. "Dean's Google+ Profile"

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