Know your rights concerning hazardous materials

CSEA knows employees are often exposed to hazardous chemicals during the course of their work. That's why CSEA thinks it's important for you to know your rights under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations.

Under OSHA regulations, school districts are required to list every hazardous chemical they use, provide training to workers and, upon request, give information to affected workers and their unions. The law also states that the district must make hazardous chemical "Material Safety Data Sheets" (MSDS) available and develop a written plan of how it will comply with these regulations.

The MSDS is a key part of the law because it requires hazardous substances to have information listed about the product's identity, its hazardous ingredients and its physical/chemical characteristics.

The MSDS also contains data on fire and explosion risks, chemical composition changes, first aid procedures and precautions for safe handling and use.

Listed below is a preliminary checklist of the questions you should ask before picking up chemical substances or opening containers.

Hazardous materials checklist:

  1. Can the working material react with other chemicals? If so, which ones?
  2. Is protective equipment needed?
  3. What first aid measures are needed in case of an overexposure?
  4. Will the material burn or explode?
  5. Does the material require special storage conditions?
  6. Is the material harmful to your health? What are the symptoms?
  7. Has an up-to-date "Material Safety Data Sheet" been provided?

Protect your health and the health of your co-workers. Think like CSEA and demand answers to tough questions. You have the right to know.

If you have additional concerns, want more information, or need some help, please contact a union steward, chapter officer or CSEA labor relations representative.