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Right to Know Video Transcript

Welcome to Delta College! Since this is your first semester as a Delta College employee or volunteer, you’re here to find out more about your rights under the Michigan Right-To-Know law. This program has been designed with your health and safety in mind.

Chances are you’ve already logged onto the Facilities Management website and reviewed the Right To Know Hazard Communication Program and have located the link to the Training Record. We’ll talk more about those as we move through this program.

We’ll begin with some background information. For those of you not already familiar with the law, the first attempts toward safe working conditions, to require manufacturers to provide comprehensive product labeling, began in 1975. A few years later, the Federal government passed the Uniform Hazard Communication Standard.

Then, in 1986, our State legislators signed into effect the Michigan Right-To-Know Law. This law provides access to product information to persons whose immediate jobs or workplace involved the use, storage, or manufacture of chemicals or products that could prove hazardous to our health or safety. Michigan law significantly enhances a worker’s access to relevant chemical safety information.

Keep in mind, though, Federal law takes precedent over Michigan legislation. Think about it--if every state had a different set of procedures for the labeling and transport of chemicals, then interstate commerce would be negatively affected. It only makes sense for employees to receive equal protection regardless of the state in which they live.

At times, you may hear the Michigan Right-To-Know-Law referred to by the Federal title -- Uniform Hazard Communication Standard. To make it’s meaning more apparent, let’s break down the title. Uniform means consistent and similar. Hazard lets us know there is potential for a danger. Communication is to convey a message. And standard means ‘in a set pattern or routine’. So, essentially, under the law, job hazards are consistently communicated in a standard manner so everyone knows what information has to be provided to employees to ensure workplace safety.

In the past, before passing legislation, there was no guarantee workers would be informed about the potential product hazards they might encounter on the job. Although container labels and warning sheets were often provided, they didn’t always supply enough information on potential hazards or emergency procedures. The Uniform Hazard Communication Standard, or as it’s known in our state, the Michigan Right-To-Know Law, changed that.

At Delta College, all employees including faculty, staff, and student employees are required to become familiar with the Right-To-Know Law. Additionally, students in the health, wellness, and technical fields are encouraged to review the details of the law since they will be handling potentially hazardous products as part of their lab exercises.

At times, this requirement may be questioned -- “Why me? I don’t work with chemicals.” or “I don’t work in the chemistry lab or use cleaning products.” Although we may think chemicals only show up in chemical companies or factories, the truth is they are just about everywhere, including our home and office areas. Some everyday chemicals which perform very important jobs for us include detergents, glue, paints, gasoline, pool chlorine, and cleaning aids.

If you do work with potentially hazardous products, you’re not alone--one of every four workers in the United States will have contact with these type products while on the job. How can you identify a hazardous product?

A hazardous product is any product that poses a physical or health hazard. Over the years, common products like paints, adhesives, and cleaners have made our lives easier. But, when used incorrectly, or mishandled, even these everyday products have the potential for harm. This is why we should treat all products with respect regardless of their potential for harm.

The fact is, everyone here at Delta College may eventually come in contact with a product containing a potentially hazardous ingredient sometime during their employment or training period. This is the reason, according to the Michigan Right-To-Know Law, that all employees are required to become familiar with hazard communication.

So, what makes a chemical hazardous? The hazard communication standard is concerned with two main categories: health hazards and physical hazards.

Chemicals that may pose a health hazard are those that cause a reaction in the body that could result in either a chronic or acute illness. For example, a single exposure to an irritant, like bleach or ammonia, might cause a skin rash--an acute reaction. Chronic health hazards, on the other hand, are the result of repeated exposure to materials such as asbestos.

Your health and safety are the responsibility of three entities as mandated by the law which include the chemical manufacturer, the employer (Delta College), and the employee (you). Although each group has separate requirements and tasks, we’re all working together towards the same goal -- worker safety!

Lets take a look at the responsibilities of each. First of all, the manufacturer must evaluate each of their products to determine its physical and health hazards. Secondly, the manufacturer is required to communicate those hazards to the user in two forms--through the use of container labels and Material Safety Data Sheets.

Products labels warns users of potential hazards. To help understand the product and to ensure the information is available to all readers, labels may include any combination of pictures, symbols, or words. Always check the label each time before it is used. The conditions of the product may have changed--it may be ‘new & improved’ since it was last used--and you want to make sure it’s being used properly. If you’re unsure what the label is saying or the steps you need to protect yourself from potential hazards, more detailed and complete source of product information can be found on the Material Safety Data Sheet.

The Material Safety Data Sheet, also referred to in short as an MSDS, aids in the determination of protective equipment and clothing. It is also used as a basis for safety policy and procedure. Employees have the right to request an MSDS for any product used or stored on Delta College campus. We’ll talk about the MSDS in more detail as we move through this program.

The second entity with responsibility as required by the Michigan Right-To-Know Law is your employer. Delta College must maintain an inventory of all products used or stored on it’s campus. When a new products arrives:

the MSDS is reviewed for content (especially safety requirements!)
the data is entered into a master database for tracking purposes
a master copy is filed in the Facilities Management administrative area
a copy is sent to the department in which it is used or stored
The last responsibility is really up to you, the employee. Remember, safety is no accident! You can prevent accidental exposure to hazardous products by following these basic procedures:

  1.  Practice Safe Work Habits: Obey all safety rules! Never take shortcuts when handling, using, storing or transporting hazardous chemicals.
  2. Stay Informed: Hazard communication is for your protection. Make the most of it. Know how to use the information available on the MSDS.
  3. Use Personal Protective Equipment : Use the appropriate protective clothing and equipment as recommended by the MSDS.
  4. Become Familiar with Basic Emergency Procedures: The emergency phone number on campus is 9111 for the Campus Safety Department.

The first step you can take is to become familiar with the Material Safety Data Sheet. If your department or service area uses or stores a quantity of potentially hazardous materials, there will be a white MSDS file binder within your reach. You’ll recognize it by the bright red/pink identification sheet inserted into the front cover. Requests for Material Safety Data sheets can also be made through Facilities Management where a master file is maintained. Let’s take a closer look at an MSDS and it’s information.

A Material Safety Data Sheet is a document supplied by the manufacturer that provides all the information you may need about the use of a product. You may not find the same information on every MSDS, nor will it always be in the same format; but you will find everything that’s known about the product, its hazards, and precautions to avoid injury and illness. Remember, always review the MSDS before you start a job! That way you’ll be prepared.

Let's review the MSDS. First of all, the MSDS identifies the product with the chemical name and the trade or ‘common’ name. The manufacturer’s name and contact information are also be included in the identification section. Section 2, lists the product ingredients and the exposure limits to which an employee may be safely exposed.

The physical and chemical characteristics are included in section three. These are factors that help to recognize the product such as color or odor, or is it a gas, solid, or liquid. Also included are it’s volatility and vapor pressure.

Section 4 provides fire and explosion information. This includes the flash point or the temperature at which the chemical will ignite. This section will also address how to safely extinguish a fire that contains the chemical composition.

The MSDS also includes sections on Health Hazards and Reactivity Data. Health hazards will include symptoms of overexposure like skin rash, burns, headaches or dizziness. Flush exposed skin, remove to fresh air, and induce vomiting are a sample of the first aid procedures found in this section. Reactivity data addresses the incompatibility or stability of the chemical as it may interact with other substances. This data is highly important when considering a storage site.

The last section addresses the safe clean up and handling of contaminated equipment and the proper protective equipment required during a clean up. Transportation, disposal, and environmental impact are all essential considerations to safe, workplace practice.

As you become more acquainted with the campus, you’ll notice these postings across campus. They’re a reminder of where to access product information. They’ll indicate the MSDS file in the immediate area, as well as the location of the Facilities Management master file.

We’ve talked about identification labels and Material Safety Data Sheets, both necessary elements to finding out more about the products you may use. Additionally, you can always count on your four innate senses--especially to determine the presence or release of a chemical.

A foggy haze, sighting a red plume of smoke or an acrid or pungent odor can all hint of an emergency situation. A bitter or strange taste after or during work with a product may mean more thorough clean up is needed. A high pressure leak is characterized by a hissing sound, crackling may indicate fire, while a crash in a storage area can be a fallen container having the potential for exposure. So pay attention, be aware. Your safety is ultimately your responsibility!

The scope of this program is not intended to cover specific hazards. If you’re required to work more directly with particular products in your service area, call upon your immediate supervisor for specific information. For MSDS and labeling information, or questions regarding any portions of this program, contact Facilities Management at ext. 9209. For questions regarding emergency procedures, contact Campus Safety, ext. 9112.

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