The Employee Right-to-Know (Hazard Communication) Manual

Purpose of this manual:  This manual is designed to assist CSB|OSB departments in the process of developing and successfully implementing site specific Employee Right-To-Know (ERTK) program.

  • Section 1:  Introduction and overview
  • Section 2:  Developing a written Employee Right-To-Know program
  • Section 3:  Training
  • Section 4:  Department specific ERTK program development
  • Section 5:  Training and information requirements for harmful physical agents
  • Section 6:  Training and information requirements for infectious agents
  • Appendix A:  Uniform Chemical Labeling System
  • Appendix B:  Material safety data sheets (MSDSs)
  • Appendix C:  Material safety data sheet checklist
  • Appendix D:  Industrial sources of non-ionizing radiation
  • Appendix E:  Stress evaluation — heat
  • Appendix F: Sources of information
  • Glossary

List of industries (SIC) that must comply with the MN OSHA AWAIR Act.


Section 1: Introduction and overview

The Employee Right-To-Know Act was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 1983 and is intended to ensure that employees are aware of the dangers associated with hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, or infectious agents they may be exposed to in their workplaces.

The Employee Right-To-Know Act applies to all employers in Minnesota with the exception of federal agencies.

To comply with the Employee Right-To-Know (ERTK) standard, College of Saint Benedict/ Order of Saint Benedict (CSB/OSB) must identify the hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, and infectious agents that are present in the workplace and provide information and training to employees who are "routinely exposed" to those substances or agents. A written ERTK program is required.

"Routinely exposed" means that a reasonable potential exists for exposure to hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, or infectious agents during the normal course of the employees' work assignments. Exposure above the Minnesota OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) is not necessary before implementing ERTK provisions. Routinely exposed includes working in areas where hazardous substances have been spilled and assignment to cleaning up leaks and spills. It does not include a simple walk-through of an area where a substance or agent is present and no significant exposure occurs.

In brief, the Employee Right-To-Know program must include:

  • An inventory of hazardous substances and/or agents that exist in the workplace;
  • Identification of employees who are routinely exposed to those substances or agents;
  • A system for obtaining and maintaining written information on the substances and agents employees may be exposed to in the workplace;
  • Methods for making ERTK information readily accessible to employees in their work areas;
  • A plan for providing initial, pre-assignment and annual training of employees; and
  • Implementation and maintenance of a labeling system or other warning methods.

The following sections of this plan provide more information on each of these elements.

Go to The ERTK Manual index.

Section 2:  Developing a written Employee Right-To-Know program

All affected CSB/OSB departments must customize and implement in written form, this institutional Employee Right-To-Know program for hazardous substances, harmful physical agents and infectious agents that are present in their workplace.

The written ERTK program must include:

1. An outline of training that will be provided to employees for hazardous substances, harmful physical agents and infectious agents. [More information about the training requirements of ERTK is provided in Sections 3 through 6.]

2. A list of the hazardous substances known to be present using an identity (e.g., chemical name, common name, etc.) that is referenced on the appropriate material safety data sheet (MSDS). [More information about material safety data sheets is provided in Section 4 and Appendix A.] This list may be compiled for the department as a whole or for individual work areas.

3. A description of the labeling system or other forms of warning used in the workplace. [Details about the labeling requirements for hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, and infectious agents are provided in Sections 4, 5, and 6, respectively.]

4. The methods the department will use:

  • to inform employees of the hazards of infrequent or non-routine tasks that involve exposure to hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, or infectious agents.
  • to inform employees of the hazards associated with substances contained in unlabeled pipes in their work areas.

5. In addition, multi-employer workplace employers must describe the methods the employer will use to:

  • inform other employers with employees working at the workplace of the hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, or infectious agents employees may be exposed to while performing their work;
  • provide other employers with MSDSs or other written information, or where it will be located in the workplace;
  • inform other employees of required precautionary measures that must be taken during normal operating conditions and in foreseeable emergencies;
  • inform the other employers of the labeling system used in the workplace.

Availability of written program:

The ERTK program must be maintained at the worksite.

The written ERTK program must be available to employees or their designated representatives and Minnesota OSHA.

Periodic review:

Because of the changing nature of the workplace, the ERTK program will be an ever-changing program. New substances will be introduced; currently used substances will be replaced or totally eliminated from use, etc. The written ERTK program should, therefore, be periodically reviewed (Recommendation: annually when the annual ERTK update training is conducted) to remove outdated information, insert new information, update training records, etc. When outdated MSDS information is removed from the active file to records retention, the dates of active use should be noted on the individual MSDS. (See Section 4 regarding retention of MSDSs.)

Note:  If employees are exposed to blood as part of their job duties, the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, requires us to develop and implement an Exposure Control Plan. If all infectious agents to which employees may be exposed are covered as part of the Exposure Control Plan, that Plan will be considered as meeting the ERTK requirement for a written program for infectious agents.

Go to The ERTK Manual index.

Section 3:  Training

Every employee who works with or is routinely exposed to hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, or infectious agents as part of their job responsibilities must receive Employee Right-To-Know training.

The training must be made available by, and at the cost of, the employer. If employees are required to attend training at times other than their normal work schedule, they must be compensated for that time (e.g., overtime, equivalent time off, etc.).

Note:  Details of the training required for hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, and infectious agents is provided in Sections 4, 5, and 6 of this manual.

ERTK training must be provided:

  • In English or a language understood by employees;
  • For the hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, and/or infectious agents to which employees may be exposed in the workplace;
  • For temporary and seasonal or student employees who are assigned to tasks which may expose them to hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, or infectious agents.

Frequency of ERTK training:

  • Before an employee's initial assignment to a workplace where they may be routinely exposed to a hazardous substance, harmful physical agent, or infectious agent;
  • Before any new or additional hazardous substance or agent is introduced into the workplace to which the employee may be routinely exposed;
  • Training must be updated annually. [Annual update training may be brief summaries of information included in initial and/or previous training sessions.]

Training records:

  • The department must maintain training records and a copy submitted to Environmental Health and Safety Office. All training records are to be retained for a minimum three years.
  • Training records must include:
    • The dates training was conducted;
    • The name, title, and qualifications of the person who conducted the training;
    • The names and job titles of employees who completed the training; and
    • A brief summary or outline of the information that was included in the training session.

Upon completion of ERTK training, employees should:

  • be aware of the hazards they are exposed to;
  • know the short and long term effects of exposure to substances or agents and how to protect themselves from over-exposure (e.g., appropriate personal protective equipment and/or clothing, etc.);
  • know how to obtain, read and use information on labels, material safety data sheets, or other reference materials; and
  • know and follow appropriate work practices.

Audiovisuals and written materials as ERTK training:

  • Giving an employee a data sheet, package insert, reference manual, or other printed material to read does not meet the ERTK training requirements.
  • It is not acceptable to have employees watch a video that does not include specific information about the substances and agents the employee is exposed to in the workplace as the only method of training.
  • Audiovisuals, interactive videos, printed materials, etc., may be used as "part" of the ERTK program if they are supplemented by specific information related to the employees' job duties and related exposures. Immediate supervisors are expected to provide the specific information. 
    • Training must include an opportunity for employees to ask questions to ensure they understand the information presented to them.

Exceptions:

  • Technically qualified individuals (TQIs). TQIs are individuals who, because of their training, education, and experience, are deemed to be knowledgeable in the hazards associated with hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, or infectious agents.
    The individuals who may claim TQI status are: physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and lead research individuals.
  • TQIs are not required to attend ERTK training. However, they must be notified when the training is going to be given to other employees within the department and allowed to attend if they wish.

Note:  The TQI exemption applies only to ERTK training and has no effect on any other OSHA standard that requires training of employees. For example, employees who are exposed to blood borne pathogens (which are infectious agents) must be trained in accordance with the Occupational Exposure to Blood borne Pathogens standard. If information on blood borne pathogens is presented only as part of the ERTK training session on infectious agents, then TQIs must attend.

Go to The ERTK Manual index.

Section 4:  Department specific ERTK program development

Each participating CSB/OSB department should perform the following steps to complete Department specific ERTK.  EHS is available to assist in procedure.

Training and information requirements for hazardous substances

Step 1. Inventory for hazardous substances:

  • Conduct an inventory, or survey, to identify and list all hazardous substances that employees may use or come in contact with in their work area. Include hazardous substances that are generated in the work operation but are not in containers (e.g. welding fume, wood dust, carbon monoxide generated by propane or gas powered vehicles, or nitrogen dioxide from diesel powered vehicles).
  • Develop procedures to keep your list current. When new substances are used, add them to your list. Conversely, when substances are no longer used they should be removed from the list. [See note below.]
  • Provide EHS office with a copy of an updated inventory.

Step 2. Material safety data sheets (MSDSs):

  • Request Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) from the chemical manufacturer or distributor of all the hazardous substances identified in the inventory. [Manufacturers and distributors are required to provide a MSDS at the time of the first shipment and whenever the information on the MSDS changes.]
  • Develop a routine procedure for requesting MSDSs each time a new substance is ordered. Remove MSDSs for substances that are no longer used or available in the workplace.
  • EHS office is available to assist departments with acquisition of MSDS.

Note:  MSDSs are considered to be "exposure records" under 29 CFR 1910.1020(c)(5)(iii), "Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records," and, as such, must be retained for 30 years. However, in lieu of keeping all MSDSs for 30 years, the intent of 29 CFR 1910.1020 can be met by keeping three key pieces of information: (1) the identity (chemical name, etc.) of the substance or agent, (2) where it was used, and (3) when it was used. Departments may wish to consider including this information as part of the hazardous substance list, retain the list for 30 years, and discard the MSDS.

MSDSs must be current, accurate, and all required sections on the MSDS must be completed. [Review the completeness of MSDSs using the checklist in Appendix C.]

  • MSDSs must be readily accessible to employees in their work areas. We will also make the MSDS information available on computer display terminals, and inform employees of how to access the information as an option.
  • In those workplaces where employees are required to handle or mix drugs in powder or liquid form in the course of assigned job duties, the package insert that generally is included in the drug package may be substituted for the MSDS if that package insert includes all information needed for training as outlined in Step 4.
  • It is not necessary to obtain MSDSs for:
    • products employees bring into the workplace for their personal use;
    • consumer products or products sold or used in retail establishments if they are used in a manner that is comparable to typical consumer use (e.g., same frequency, concentration, etc.);
    • articles which contain a hazardous substance in solid form that is not released (e.g., hardware, equipment, etc.);
    • substances bound and not released under normal conditions of use (e.g., adhesive tape, vinyl upholstery, tires, etc.);
    • waste material regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA);
    • substances in sealed packages that are not opened; and
    • substances present in a physical state, volume, or concentration that does not present a hazard (e.g., very small quantity, solids, diluted substances that present no adverse health affects, etc.).
  • Department should maintain a master file, if individual MSDS's are placed in decentralized work areas.
  • Copies of all department MSDS must be submitted to EHS office.

Step 3. Labeling:

  • Check all incoming shipments of hazardous substances to be sure they are labeled. Labels on containers received from manufacturers or importers must include:
    • the identity (name) of the hazardous substance,
    • the appropriate hazard warnings (e.g. flammable, causes lung damage, irritates skin, etc.)
    • the name and address of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party
  • Stationary process containers within a work area that have similar contents and hazards may be labeled by use of signs, placards, or other alternative identification means as long as the method used identifies the substance in the container and provides the appropriate hazard warning.
  • Immediate use containers (test tubes, beakers, graduates, vials, pitchers, pails, or similar containers which are routinely used and reused) do not have to be labeled if:
    • they are used only to transfer a hazardous substance from a labeled container;
    • they remain under the control of the person who transferred the substance; and
    • they are only used during the work shift in which the transfer takes place.
  • Pipes or piping systems need not be labeled but their contents must be included in employee training.
  • Where labeling is not practical or feasible, such as for carbon monoxide from lift trucks or welding operations, warning signs or equivalent warning methods must be used.

Step 4. Employee training:

  • Information that must be included in the training program for all employees routinely exposed to hazardous substances includes:
    • A summary of the ERTK standard and the employer's written ERTK program;
    • Specific information from the MSDSs of the hazardous substances employees may be exposed to, including:
      • the name or names of substances, including any generic or chemical name, trade name, and commonly used name;
      • the level, if known, at which exposure to the substance has been restricted or, if no standard has been adopted, according to guidelines established by competent professional groups;
      • known acute (extremely severe, reaching crisis rapidly) and chronic (prolonged, lingering) effects of exposure at hazardous levels, including routes of entry;
      • known symptoms;
      • any potential for flammability, explosion, or reactivity of the substance;
      • appropriate emergency treatment;
      • known proper conditions of use and exposure to the substance;
      • procedures for cleanup of leaks and spills; and
      • the name, phone number, and address of a manufacturer of the hazardous substance.
  • Where a written copy of all of the above information (e.g., the MSDS) is located in the work area or facility and how employees can access that information.
  • Training must also cover the hazards associated with substances in unlabeled pipes in the work areas.
  • Training can be conducted on each specific substance found in the workplace or it may be conducted by categories of hazards (e.g., carcinogens, sensitizers, acutely toxic agents).
  • Employees who work in operations where they handle only sealed containers (such as warehousing) are exempt from the requirements of ERTK. However, if a spill or leak of hazardous substances occurs, any employee involved in its cleanup must be trained.

Go to The ERTK Manual index.

Section 5:  Training and information requirements for harmful physical agents

Step 1. Identifying all physical agents

  • ERTK restricts coverage of harmful physical agents to only four because the Employee Right-to-Know Act restricts harmful physical agent coverage to those physical agents for which a separate standard has been adopted and exposures are expected to approximate either the action level or permissible exposure limit at some time during the work year.
  • The four harmful physical agents subject to ERTK coverage are:
    • Noise:  Conduct initial evaluations to identify employees who are exposed to noise at or above 85db averaged over eight working hours. (If noise levels exceed 85db, compliance with the Occupational Exposure to Noise Standard, 29 CFR 1910.95, is required.)
    • Heat:  List areas of potential excessive heat exposure, considering:
      • temperature of the work environment
      • season of the year
      • work activity
        (See Appendix E for more information and exposure limits.)
    • Ionizing radiation:  List all potential sources of X-rays, and radioactive materials. The most common uses of ionizing radiation occur in hospitals and dental offices with X-ray equipment and radioactive sources for non-destructive testing of welded seams, such as in pipes. (See OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.96)
    • Non-ionizing radiation:  List all sources of non-ionizing radiation. (See OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.97 and Appendix D, "Industrial Sources of Non-ionizing Radiation.")
  • Submit the department list of harmful physical agents to EHS for additional evaluation.

Step 2. Labeling

  • Both EHS and the affected department will ensure that all equipment or work areas that generate harmful physical agents at a level, which may be expected to approximate or exceed the permissible exposure limit, or applicable action level are appropriately labeled.
  • The label shall include:
    • The name of the physical agent; and
    • Appropriate hazard warning
  • Examples of labels or signs for a physical agent:
    • for equipment or a work area where there is a reasonable potential for exposure to heat at a level which may be expected to approximate or exceed the heat stress standard:
      "POTENTIAL HEAT STRESS AREA TRAINING REQUIRED"
    • for equipment or work areas where there is a reasonable potential for exposure to noise at a level which may be expected to approximate or exceed the permissible exposure limit or action level:
      "HIGH NOISE AREA, TRAINING REQUIRED"
          or
      "HIGH NOISE AREA, HEARING PROTECTION REQUIRED"
          or
      "HIGH NOISE AREA, HEARING PROTECTION RECOMMENDED"

Step 3. Training

  • Manufacturers of equipment, which generate a harmful physical agent, must provide the purchasing employer with information necessary to comply with the training requirements. This information must be provided at the time of purchase.
  • Employers must conduct initial and on-going evaluations to determine if employees are routinely exposed to harmful physical agents at levels that approximate or exceed the permissible exposure limit or applicable action level and provide training to those employees.
  • ERTK requires the following information to be included in training on harmful physical agents:
    • the name or names of the physical agent including any commonly used synonym;
    • the level at which exposure to the physical agent has been restricted;
    • the known acute (extremely severe, reaching crisis rapidly) and chronic (prolonged, lingering) effects of exposure at hazardous levels;
    • known symptoms;
    • appropriate emergency treatment;
    • known proper conditions for exposure to the physical agent; and
    • the name, phone number, and address, if appropriate, of a manufacturer of the equipment which generates the harmful physical agent;
    • where a written copy of all of the above information is kept in the work area. [Written information must be available to employees in the area or areas in which the harmful physical agent is present and where the employees may be exposed to the agent through use, handling, or otherwise.]
  • The following are examples of information that should be included for each of the harmful physical agents covered under ERTK:
    • Noise:
      • When noise levels exceed 85db over an 8 hour period
      • Identity of areas of potential over-exposure
      • The effects of noise on hearing
      • The purpose of hearing protection, advantages and disadvantages of various types
      • Instructions on selection, fitting, use and care of hearing protection
      • Purpose of audiometric testing and test procedures
    • Heat stress:
      • Identification of heat disorders and how to avoid them
      • Symptoms of over-exposure
      • Cause of heat stress
      • Prevention measures the department has implemented (including engineering controls and work/rest patterns)
    • Ionizing/non-ionizing radiation:
      • Identity of sources
      • Exposure limits
      • Health effects of exposure
      • Emergency procedures
      • Safety procedures and control measures
      • Personal protective equipment

Go to The ERTK Manual index.

Section 6: Training and information requirements for infectious agents

Step 1. Identify all infectious agents:

  • Departments must evaluate the workplace for the presence of infectious agents employees may be exposed to at work.
    • Infectious agents include bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, and rickettsial agents.
    • A list of infectious agents is included in the ERTK standard (Minnesota Rules 5206.0600, subpart 4) and includes the most common infectious agents that may be encountered in Minnesota.
  • Infectious agents requirements of ERTK applies to all departments who have employees potentially exposed to infectious agents. This means that infectious agents training must be provided to among others, our firefighters and security/life safety personnel, and to employees who are assigned to a first aid or first responder team and those who respond to clean up or removal of potentially infectious materials.

Step 2. Labeling:

  • Labeling of infectious waste (e.g., labeled with the biohazard symbol) must comply with the requirements of the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, and the Minnesota Infectious Waste Control Act.

Step 3. Training:

  • Information required as part of the ERTK infectious agents training program is identical to training for employees exposed to blood required by the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030.
  • One training program that covers all identified workplace infectious agents satisfies both standards.
  • Information that must be included in the training for infectious agents includes an explanation of:
    • our ERTK program for infectious agents (Bloodborne Pathogen program);
    • the epidemiology and symptoms of infectious diseases including hazards to special at-risk employee groups;
    • appropriate methods of recognition of tasks and other activities that may involve exposure to infectious agents, including blood and other infectious materials;
    • the chain of infection, or infectious disease process, including:
      • agents
      • reservoirs
      • modes of escape from reservoirs
      • modes of transmission
    • modes of entry into the host and host susceptibility the use and limitations of control methods that prevent or reduce exposure including:
      • universal precautions
      • engineering controls
      • appropriate work practices
      • personal protective equipment
      • housekeeping
    • the basis for selection of personal protective equipment:
      • its use
      • types of equipment available
      • location of equipment
      • decontamination and disposal
    • the proper procedures for clean-up of blood or body fluids;
    • recommended immunization practices;
    • procedures to follow if an exposure incident occurs, including:
      • when, how, and to whom the incident should be reported
      • post-exposure evaluation and medical follow-up that will be available
    • the appropriate actions to take and persons to contact in an emergency involving potentially infectious materials;
    • signs, labels, tags, or color coding used to denote biohazards;
    • where employees can find a written copy of the above information (e.g., reference documents such as "The Control of Communicable Diseases in Man"), the employer's written ERTK program, the ERTK standard, and the person to contact with questions.
    • Training sessions must allow employees an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with the person conducting the training session.

Go to The ERTK Manual index.