OSHA is the nation's basic work-place safety standards act. Federal employees are covered by agency rules that are based on OSHA. This law allows states to enforce safety standards consistent with federal safety standards. Thus, although basic responsibility for OSHA resides with the U.S. Department of Labor, in some states the first level of enforcement is with the state agency. In other states responsibility lies with the federal OSHA branch office.
There is also an OSHA Hazard Communications Standard requiring all employers to provide workers with information on hazardous chemicals through material safety data sheets, labels, and training programs. This requires detailed information on health and safety dangers. A number of states have enacted "right to know laws" entitling workers, and communities to know the nature of health risks stemming from the chemicals with which they work. Again, the union representative should become familiar with the workers' rights in this critically important area.