Workers' right-to-know legislation: Does it work?

E. Kahan, C. Lemesh, A. Pines, O. Mehoudar, C. Peretz, M. Ribski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Workers' right-to-know (WRTK) laws and regulations were established to empower workers to protect their health by providing them with information about the hazards to which they are exposed while at work. The present study was conducted to examine the implementation of WRTK regulations in Israel. We interviewed 552 workers and 33 safety officers from a random sample employed at 50 industrial plants. The workers' questionnaire included items on awareness and self-management of workplace hazards, and the safety officers answered questions about job experience and hazards communications to workers. In 36% of cases workers and their safety officers disagreed about the existence of hazards in the workplace (p < 0.001). Most (78%) of the workers' knowledge about work hazards was based on informal sources, i.e., not those stipulated by the regulations. There were also discrepancies between worker and safely officer reports regarding the provision of safety training upon employment (p < 0.001), recent instructions about special risks and distribution of relevant printed material. We found that more than 5% of workers were unable to read the language in which the hazards material was written and 22% had levels of education below that required to comprehend the technical terms used. There are serious problems in the implementation of WRTK regulations in Israel. We recommend that employers be made aware of the importance of these laws and of their proactive duly to comply with them and that the material distributed to workers be written in simpler terms and/or explained orally in a language they understand. These findings have important implications for all countries with similar legislation and should form the basis for further and more comprehensive studies world-wide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-15
Number of pages5
JournalOccupational Medicine
Volume49
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1999

Keywords

  • Israel
  • Safety regulations
  • Work hazards
  • Workers' right-to-know legislation

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