Do Pennsylvania Workers Have The Right to Know About Their Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals?
The Pennsylvania Worker and Right to Know Act (Act 159 of 1984) created a system for communicating information about hazardous materials used, produced or stored at work sites within the Commonwealth. The Department of Labor & Industry, through the Health & Safety Division, acts as the data collector between employers and the community.
Under this law, all employers have the duty to make available to employees and to the general public the identity of chemicals used in the workplace, and to make information available as to the known or suspected health hazards posed by the use of or exposure to hazardous substances. Employees, their families and the general public have a right to know the identity of chemicals they may be exposed to, the potential health hazards that exist and the symptoms that may be experienced because of exposure. The law recognizes that employees are frequently in the best position to discover serious health problems, provided that they are aware of the chemical identity and the nature of the substances to which they are exposed. Furthermore, the law finds employees, their families and the general public have an inherent right to know about the known and suspected health hazards which may result from exposure to hazardous substances, so that they may make knowledgeable and reasoned decisions with respect to the continued personal costs of their employment or residence at a particular place and the need for corrective action.
If an employee suspects that their employer has violated this act, Section 14 of the Act provides that they may file a complaint with the Department, within 180 days of the violation, setting forth the grounds for the complaint. Section 13 of the Act provides for the protection of employees who file complaints. It states that no employer shall discharge or cause to be discharged, or otherwise discipline or in any manner discriminate against, an employee because the employee has filed a complaint, has assisted the department with respect to an inspection under section 14, has instituted or used to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this act, has testified or is about to testify in any proceeding, has requested any information or properly refused work under section 5 or has exercised any right afforded pursuant to the provisions of this act.
Employees who work in an environment with hazardous substances can be susceptible to injuries and diseases caused by those substances. If you believe you may have sustained an injury or disease caused by hazardous substances you may have a workers’ compensation claim and this law can provide information that could be valuable in proving your case. If you believe you may have a workers’ compensation claim or if you have been discharged because you have engaged in actions protected by the Law it’s important that you speak to an experienced workers’ compensation and employment attorney.