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UMD ERTK Program
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Step by Step to Container Labeling
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To protect the health and safety of all university employees and provide a safe and healthy work and study environment in accordance with the Regents' Campus Health and Safety Policy, and to implement all the provisions of the Minnesota Employee Right-to-Know Act of 1983, as well as Federal Regulations covering the communication of information on hazardous substances, harmful physical and infectious agents to employees campus-wide.

Summary of the law

In 1983 the Minnesota Legislature passed the Hazardous Substance; Employee Right-To-Know (ERTK) Law, which requires employers to develop written programs that outlines steps taken to protect and inform employees of the dangers associated with potential exposure to hazardous chemical substances, harmful physical agents, and infectious agents they routinely come in contact with in their workplace. 

The ERTK Act also requires employers to evaluate their workplaces for the presence of hazardous substances, harmful physical agents, and infectious agents and to provide training to employees concerning substances or agents to which they may be exposed.

Written information on agents must be made readily available and accessible to all employees and their representatives.  Employees have a conditional right to refuse to work if assigned to work in an unsafe or unhealthful manner with a hazardous substance, harmful physical agent or infectious agent. 

Written information also must specify the labeling requirements for containers
of hazardous substances and equipment or work areas that generate harmful physical agents.

Scope and Exceptions

This program applies to all University of Minnesota Duluth employees and places of work where potential exposure to hazardous chemical, harmful physical or infectious agents may routinely occur with the following exceptions:
  • Laboratories where bench-scale laboratory use of hazardous chemicals occurs are exempt from all the provisions of this standard except the labeling and SDS requirements.  Laboratories must comply with federal requirements of the Lab Standard as codified in title 29 CFR, section 1910.1450.

  • Hospitals and Clinics of any size must comply with the infectious agents as well as hazardous substances and harmful physical agents requirements.

Hospitals and clinics must provide training to their employees on infectious agents to which those employees are routinely exposed.  The training program must include the chain of infection, techniques to avoid self-contamination, hazards to special at-risk groups, recommended immunization practices and how to obtain additional information.

Rights and Responsibilities

  1. Receive information, and be trained on the hazardous substances, harmful physical agents and infectious agents to which they may be exposed.

  2. Refuse to work if assigned to work in an unsafe or unhealthful manner with a hazardous substance, harmful physical agent or infectious agent. 

  3. Request an inspection of the workplace (Employees must initially notify the employer or supervisor of the hazardous conditions.  If corrections are not completed or if a dispute arises about the existence of a hazard, the employee or authorized employee representative may request an inspection of the workplace by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, the Office of Occupational Health and Safety or a Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MN OSHA).

  4. Attend all required training, and carryout requirement of the ERTK Plan including labeling chemical containers, wearing assigned protective equipment, etc

Employers (Departments and Facilities)
  1. Designate a Program Coordinator with overall responsibility to review and update the program as necessary, disseminate information to employees about the program (this could be someone already assigned as a department Safety Coordinator, Research Safety Officer, or a Supervisor)

  2. Develop and complete the written Site-Specific Employee Right to know Plan

  3. Conduct a hazard evaluation (Risk Assessment and Task/Job Hazard Analysis) for each operation, process, or work area where chemical, physical or infectious hazards may be present including during emergencies to:
  • Identify and develop the list of hazardous chemical substances, physical agents and infectious agents used or encountered at the site and to which employees are routinely exposed.
  • Collect written information on the listed hazards, including Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for all chemical and Infectious agents used at the site.
  • Identify all areas where potential exposures to harmful physical agents may occur, label and post those areas with proper warning signs.
  • Identify affected employees.
  • Label hazardous substances and harmful physical agents.
  • Label transfer containers (Label info should include the chemical or trade name of the hazardous substance, and identification of the main hazard(s) posed by the substance).
  1. Train employees upon initial assignment, annually and when a new hazard is introduced. 

  2. Keep records of completed training using a either computerized file or sign up sheet with information about the training.

  3. Assign employees to alternative jobs until hazardous conditions can be eliminated or until proper training has been provided.
  4. Protection of trade secrets.

Environmental Health and Safety Office
  1. Orient supervisors to responsibilities under ERTK program.

  2. Assist in collection of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and identification of hazards.

  3. Develop the Site-Specific Plan Template,

  4. Perform exposure monitoring and assist with Risk/Hazard Assessment

  5. Prepare educational materials for new employee training.

  6. Respond to requests for assistance in finding training materials and evaluation of SDS.

  7. Recommend content of training programs.


For more information about the law, you may contact either of the following offices:
University of Minnesota Duluth 
Environmental Health and Safety Office
Phone: (218) 726-7273
FAX: (218) 726-6730
Minnesota Department of Health
Industrial Hygiene Section
717 Delaware Street S.E.
P.O. Box 9441
Minneapolis, MN 55440
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.