Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Hazard Communication Worker Right-to-Know Program
- What is the Texas Hazard Communication Act?
- How does the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) affect the Texas Hazard Communication Act?
- What is a "public" employer?
- What is a hazardous chemical?
- Are certain hazardous chemicals exempt from the THCA requirements?
- Are laboratories exempt from the THCA requirements?
- Does the Workplace Chemical List have to include all the chemicals in a work area?
- Does the THCA apply to hazardous chemicals that do not exceed the thresholds specified for the "Workplace Chemical List"?
- What are the THCA requirements for chemical container labels?
- What are the THCA requirements for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)?
- What are the requirements for issuing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees?
- I am an accountant with a public employer and was recently exposed to chemical vapors when our office air ducts were being cleaned and treated. Is this exposure covered under the THCA?
- Is there a required notice that public employers must post in order to comply with the THCA?
- How do I develop a written hazard communication training program?
- Is annual training for employees required under the THCA?
- Are public employers required to send written records of training to the Department of State Health Services?
- What specific Hazard Communication training records must be retained to satisfy THCA requirements?
- My facility receives a THCA compliance inspection from the Texas Department of State Health Services and is found to be in violation. What happens next?
- Are volunteer emergency service organizations such as volunteer fire departments covered under the Texas Hazard Communication Act (THCA)? If so, who is responsible for complying with the THCA?
What is the Texas Hazard Communication Act?
The Texas Hazard Communication Act (THCA) is a state "worker right-to-know" law that requires public employers to provide their employees with specific information and training on the hazardous chemicals to which employees may be exposed in the workplace.
How does the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) affect the Texas Hazard Communication Act?
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) does not anticipate any major conflicts with its current Hazard Communication regulations as a result of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) for the public (government) workplace in Texas. However, the new labeling and Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), requirements must be down-streamed and included in the worker training given to employees as new labels and SDSs are received from the manufacturer or distributor of hazardous chemicals. These SDSs should replace the current MSDSs on file. Training modules used should be updated with these new requirements.
For additional information about GHS, please see The Impact of the GHS on the THCA (PDF, 337KB).
What is a "public" employer?
A public employer is any city, county or state agency; public school, college or university; tax base-supported hospital; river authority; volunteer emergency service organization; and any agency created by state law.
What is a hazardous chemical?
A hazardous chemical is defined by the THCA as any element, compound, or mixture of elements or compounds that is a health hazard or a physical hazard as defined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard. Examples of chemicals which are health hazards include chemicals that are toxic, irritants, corrosives, carcinogens, and any chemicals that damage the lungs, eyes, skin, or mucous membranes. Examples of chemicals that are physical hazards include chemicals that are flammable, combustible, explosives, and compressed gases.
Are certain hazardous chemicals exempt from the THCA requirements?
Yes. The THCA does not apply to the following substances:
- Hazardous waste regulated by the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, as amended (42 U.S.C. Section 6901 et seq.), when subject to regulations issued under that Act by the Environmental Protection Agency;
- Tobacco or tobacco products;
- Wood or wood products;
- Articles, which are defined as a manufactured item that is formed to a specific shape or design during manufacture; that has end use functions dependent in whole or in part on its shape or design during end use; and that does not release, or otherwise result in exposure to, a hazardous chemical under normal conditions of use;
- Food, drugs, or cosmetics intended for personal consumption by an employee while in the workplace;
- Consumer products or hazardous substances when used in the workplace in the same manner as normal consumer use and if the use results in a duration and frequency of exposure that is not greater than exposures experienced by consumers;
Are laboratories exempt from the THCA requirements?
No. Laboratories are not exempt from the THCA, however; chemicals in a laboratory under the direct supervision or guidance of a technically qualified individual are only required to comply with the following requirements of the THCA:
- Labels on incoming containers of chemicals must not be removed or defaced;
- The employer must comply with Section 502.006 (MSDSs/SDSs) and Section 502.009 (Employee Education Program) of the THCA;
- The laboratory cannot be used primarily to produce hazardous chemicals in bulk for commercial purposes.
Keep in mind that although laboratories have certain THCA exemptions; chemical storerooms or closets that are detached from the laboratory are subject to all THCA requirements.
Does the Workplace Chemical List have to include all the chemicals in a work area?
No. The Workplace Chemical List (WCL) only needs to include those chemicals in the workplace that are normally present in excess of 55 gallons or 500 pounds. The WCL should be updated annually and maintained in the workplace for 30 years. The list may be prepared for the entire facility or individual work areas.
For additional information and examples on the WCL, please see the WCL Fact Sheet (PDF, 29KB).
Does the THCA apply to hazardous chemicals that do not exceed the thresholds specified for the "Workplace Chemical List"?
Yes. The THCA requires that public employers meet the Act's requirements for labeling, maintenance of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), now known as Safety Data Sheets (SDSs),training, provision of personal protective equipment, etc., for ANY amount of a hazardous chemical. The only thresholds specified in the THCA are those for the Workplace Chemical List, which is a list of all hazardous chemicals which exceed 55 gallons or 500 pounds.
What are the THCA requirements for chemical container labels?
Employees may not be required to work with a hazardous chemical from an unlabeled container except for a portable container intended for the immediate use of the employee who performs the transfer. Also, a label on an existing container of a hazardous chemical may not be removed or defaced. If the workplace has a chemical container with an inaccurate, damaged or missing label, the container must be labeled as follows:
- Primary containers must be relabeled with at least the identity appearing on the MSDS/SDS, the pertinent physical and health hazards, including the organs that would be affected, and the manufacturer's name and address.
- Secondary containers must be relabeled with at least the identity appearing on the MSDS/SDS, and the appropriate hazard warnings.
Alternative labeling systems including NFPA fire diamonds or the HMIS labeling system are also accepted for THCA labeling requirements contingent upon employees being specifically trained on interpreting them.
Further information on the THCA labeling standard, please see the Hazardous Chemical Labels Fact Sheet (PDF, 229KB).
What are the THCA requirements for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)?
An employer shall maintain a legible copy of a current SDS/MSDS for each hazardous chemical purchased. If the employer does not have a current SDS/MSDS for a hazardous chemical, an employer shall request or obtain a missing SDS/MSDS within 30 business days of receipt of the hazardous chemical. An employer shall not permit the use of any hazardous chemical for which a current SDS/MSDS is not available.
For further information on Safety Data Sheets, please see the Safety Data Sheet Fact Sheet (PDF, 80KB).
What are the requirements for issuing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees?
The THCA states that employees shall be provided with appropriate PPE, defined as "equipment that is provided to an employee by the employer and provides a level of protection to chemicals to which the employee may be exposed that will be adequate to ensure their health and safety based on current industry standards." Also, the employer must ensure that the provided equipment fits the individual employee and is functional for its intended use as described by the manufacturer's specifications. The chemical's SDS/MSDS can be used as a reference for selecting appropriate PPE.
More information about THCA standards for PPE can be found on the PPE Fact Sheet (PDF, 17KB).
I am an accountant with a public employer and was recently exposed to chemical vapors when our office air ducts were being cleaned and treated. Is this exposure covered under the THCA?
No. The THCA states that office workers who encounter hazardous chemicals only in non-routine, isolated instances are not covered under the THCA. However, personnel exposed to such chemical vapors in a non-routine manner should inform their supervisor or safety office to apprise them of the situation. Employees should be informed of chemical or physical hazards associated with these non-routine tasks and told how to protect themselves from further exposure.
Is there a required notice that public employers must post in order to comply with the Texas Hazard Communication Act (THCA)?
Yes. The THCA requires that public employers post copies of a document which is called the "Notice to Employees" in locations where notices are normally posted. The size and wording of the "Notice to Employees" is described in the Rules for the THCA (25 TAC §295.12).
Copies of the "Notice to Employees" are available from the Program:
- Worker Right to Know Notice - English (PDF, 153KB)
- Worker Right to Know Notice - Spanish (PDF, 193KB)
How do I develop a written hazard communication training program?
The Program has a written guidance document to assist public employers in developing the written training program. There are also commercially available written training programs that may be modified for use by a public employer. However, public employers are cautioned that the written training program must be designed for their specific workplaces. Therefore, it is imperative that these employers ensure that their written training program meets the requirements of the THCA and Rules. One of the most common problems with commercially available written training programs is that they are usually designed for compliance with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Hazard Communication Standard, and NOT for compliance with the THCA.
For more information, please see the Model Written Hazcom Program.
Is annual training for employees required under the THCA?
No. The original THCA required annual training, but this requirement was deleted when the THCA was revised in 1993. Public employers are now required to train employees who use or handle hazardous chemicals on an as needed basis. They are also required to provide additional training "when the potential for exposure to hazardous chemicals in the employee's work area increases significantly or when the employer receives new and significant information concerning the hazards of a chemical in the employee's work area." This requirement means that the employer must consider several factors in determining the frequency of training, including the abilities of the employee to retain training information, the complexity of employee tasks, and the degree of hazardous chemical exposure. New or newly assigned employees must be trained before they work with or in an area containing a hazardous chemical.
Are public employers required to send written records of training to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS)?
No. This provision of the original THCA was deleted when the Act was revised in 1993. Public employers must maintain their own employee training records for at least five years and make these records available to a representative of the Department upon request. The records shall include documentation of each training session given to employees, the date the training was given, a roster of the employees who attended the training, the subjects covered in the training, and the names of the instructors.
What specific Hazard Communication training records must be retained to satisfy THCA requirements?
An employer shall retain a record of each training session given to employees, including the date, a roster of employees who attended, the subjects covered in the training session, and the names of the instructors. Those records shall be maintained for at least five years by the employer and be available to representatives of DSHS upon request.
For more information, please see the Sample Training Roster Fact Sheet (PDF, 32KB)
My facility receives a THCA compliance inspection from the Texas Department of State Health Services and is found to be in violation. What happens next?
The facility will receive a written Notice of Violation (NOV) approximately 60 days from the date of the inspection, detailing the violations observed and the corrective action required on the part of the facility. The facility will then have 15 business days from receipt of the NOV to submit to the Department written certification that the violations have been corrected to the requirements of the THCA. Upon receiving written certification and determining that all violations have been corrected, the Department will issue a Case Closure Letter and close the case. Failure to submit the written certification or to satisfactorily correct all the violations within this time period, however, may result in the Department assessing administrative penalties against the facility. Further, since the facility will have only 15 business days from receipt of the NOV to certify correction of the violations to the Department, it is in the best interest of the facility to initiate corrective action as soon as possible after the inspector's visit.
For additional information on the compliance inspection process, please see the Inspections and Enforcement Fact Sheet (PDF, 94KB).
Are volunteer emergency service organizations such as volunteer fire departments covered under the Texas Hazard Communication Act (THCA)? If so, who is responsible for complying with the THCA?
The answer to the first question is “Yes”. The Texas Hazard Communication Act (THCA) states the following under “Applicability of Chapter”: “Sec. 502.004. APPLICABILITY OF CHAPTER. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), this chapter applies only to employers who are not required to comply with the OSHA standard, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Pub. L. No. 91-173), or the Federal Mine Safety and Health Amendments Act of 1977 (Pub. L. No. 95-164).” The definition of “employer” under Section 502.003(11) of the THCA includes “a volunteer emergency service organization”. This would include volunteer fire departments. However, other non-compensated volunteers who are not part of an emergency service organization are not covered by the THCA.
Regarding the answer to the second question, the pertinent governmental entity having jurisdictional oversight over the “voluntary emergency service organization” such as volunteer fire departments would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the THCA. Basically, it is whoever has oversight authority of the volunteer fire department would be responsible for THCA compliance similar to how a fire department that has paid employees is set up.
Please E-mail comments or suggestions to TxHazComHelp@dshs.texas.gov.