The winning of the Right-to-Know about chemical exposure was a significant achievement for Labor Unions, although it took almost fifteen years to gain a national standard. It is hard to believe today that just twenty-five years ago workers did not have the right-to-know the identity of the chemicals they worked with or were exposed to, even if the chemicals were making them sick. The OSHA Right to Know or Hazard Communication standard had its roots in the passage of the OSH Act in 1970. The Act specifically addressed the labeling of hazardous chemicals and gave OSHA the authority to make specific requirements relating to “labeling or other forms of warning.” The Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO began sending letters to the Secretary of Labor every six months beginning in 1971 requesting a standard that would require that all OSHA-regulated chemicals be identified by their chemical name. In 1976, PhilaPOSH (the Philadelphia-based COSH group), with the Ralph Nader-based Health Research Group, formally petitioned OSHA for a standard. After years of pushing by Labor Unions and COSH Groups, public hearings and review and political delays after Reagan became President in 1981, the initial standard was finally promulgated on November 25, 1983. Unfortunately, Reagan’s OSHA only had it cover workers in manufacturing. A legal challenge to this limitation (and some of the trade secret provisions) was filed in Federal Court by the United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO, and by Public Citizen, Inc. The Court agreed with Organized Labor and not OSHA. OSHA, with more legal action by the Unions, finally issued a revised regulation on August 24, 1987. The revised final rule expanded the scope of industries covered from just manufacturing workers to finally cover all workers. The following article provides an overview of the history of the development of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, which gave workers across the country the right to know: Dying to Know: A Historical Analysis of the Right-ti-Know Movement by Tim Morse in New Solutions
http://baywood.metapress.com/media/h83ak04yypdvvka4uc5v/contributions/4/n/k/h/4nkhh165lyxgy6rm.pdf . For more information on How to Read & Interpret a Material Safety Data Sheet
http://www.lhup.edu/ehs/ChemSfty/How%20to%20Read%20and%20Interpret%20a%20MSDS.htm . This is clipped from the 1987 video, The Right to Know: Making It Work, produced by the AFL-CIO’s Department of Occupational Safety, Health and Social Security and Labor Institute of Public Affairs.