Right-To-Know Labels (RTK)
Current federal RTK standards have no format requirements for material hazard labels and signs. However, these standards do require the inclusion of several hazard information details. These details include:
- Identifying the hazardous chemicals
- Listing appropriate hazard warnings
- Providing specific information regarding the physical and health hazards of the hazardous chemical
Why RTK? OSHA heavily champions RTK laws to protect an employee's "right to know" what type of hazards or potential dangers they could be exposed to in the workplace. OSHA defines the employer's responsibilities in the Toxic and Hazardous Substances - Hazard Communication section of 29 CFR (§1910.1200). Relevant standards are explained as follows:
§1910.1200(f)(4) - If the hazardous chemical is regulated by OSHA in a substance-specific health standard, the chemical manufacturer, importer, distributor or employer shall ensure that the labels or other forms of warning used are in accordance with the requirements of that standard.
§1910.1200(f)(5) - Except as provided in paragraphs (f)(6) and (f)(7) of this section, the employer shall ensure that each container of hazardous chemicals in the workplace is labeled, tagged or marked with the following information:
§1910.1200(f)(5)(i) - Identity of the hazardous chemical(s) contained therein; and,
§1910.1200(f)(5)(ii) - Appropriate hazard warnings, or alternatively, words, pictures, symbols, or combination thereof, which provide at least general information regarding the hazards of the chemicals, and which, in conjunction with the other information immediately available to employees under the hazard communication program, will provide employees with the specific information regarding the physical and health hazards of the hazardous chemical.
§1910.1200(f)(9) - The employer shall ensure that labels or other forms of warning are legible, in English, and prominently displayed on the container, or readily available in the work area throughout each work shift. Employers having employees who speak other languages may add the information in their language to the material presented, as long as the information is presented in English as well.
RTK standards were first adopted by OSHA during the early 1970s. By the 1980s, workers began to demand more comprehensive laws. Many states have since enacted a number of their own legally enforceable RTK codes to protect workers from chemical hazards stored in the workplace.
*To determine employer responsibilities at your facility, further research of §1910.1200 and your state's individual hazard communication laws is recommended.
The Hazard Communication standard requires all hazardous chemicals to have an identification label. In addition to hazard communication labeling, employers are required to provide the following information to all workers:
- Areas where hazardous materials are present
- Location of the written hazard communication program
- Instruction on how to read and understand labels and MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets)
- Describe the hazards of all routine or non-routine tasks