St. Mary's Law Journal


Nelson A. Clare


Significant changes have recently occurred in reporting requirements for employers who have hazardous chemicals in their workplaces. The amended Federal Hazard Communication Standard requires private employers, engaged in a business using hazardous chemicals, to communicate to employees the potential hazards. The Standard requires employers to use: 1) a Hazard Communication Program, 2) labels and other forms of warning, 3) material safety data sheets, and 4) information and training about hazardous chemicals. Local and state governments must compare and reconcile the various and complex provisions relating to the Standard to ensure compliance with all requirements of the respective laws. The Texas Hazard Communication Act (the Act), passed in 1985, attempted to bridge any potential gap if the Federal Hazard Communication Standard did not take effect or remain in effect. The expansion of the Federal Standard has preempted the Texas Act to the extent that it deals with employee right-to-know requirements or makes Federal Standard compliance impossible. Therefore, the Texas Act presumably will be effective as to provisions concerning public employees and communication of hazard material information to public officials or to the public. The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986, commonly referred to as SARA Title III, establishes requirements for reporting to federal, state and local governments. Unlike the Federal Standard, Title III specifically provides that state and local community right-to-know laws are not preempted by the Act. However, the preemption exception under Title III does not apply to the form in which facilities must submit material safety data sheets in compliance with Section 311 of the Act.


St. Mary's University School of Law