AUGUSTA – A measure introduced by Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, would improve workplace chemical management and safety to ensure safer workplaces and healthier communities.
Chemicals and toxic substances can pose a wide range of health and physical hazards to Maine workers. According to Occupational Health and Safety, chemicals in the workplace lead to over 190,000 illnesses and 50,000 deaths annually in the United States.
“Mainers have the right to work in safe conditions,” said Goode. “People should be able to work without worrying about the harm that could result from working with some of these chemicals.”
Toxic industrial chemicals are manufactured, stored, transported and used throughout the world. Toxic industrial chemicals can be in gas, liquid, or solid state, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Goode’s bill, if passed as drafted, would be the first of its kind in the nation. It would create the Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace Act which would direct the Department of Labor to develop criteria for identifying toxic and highly toxic chemicals. Chemicals designated as “toxic” or “highly toxic” would be regulated by the measure.
The bill would require a published list of all regulated toxic and highly toxic chemicals on a publicly accessible website.
Chemical exposure has been linked to breast cancer for in the workplace. According to ChemHAT, the Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox, women who worked for 10 years in automotive, agriculture, plastics and canning sectors were at higher risk of getting breast cancer.
“Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Maine,” Goode said. “Ensuring safer standards around toxic chemicals would help to decrease rates of cancer and other chronic diseases in our state.”
Goode’s bill requires employers subject to the provisions in the Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace Act to develop and implement a written alternative chemical work plan and designate a transition team to assist in transitioning from highly toxic chemicals in the workplace to safer alternatives, if they exist.
The transition team would be required to inventory all chemicals in the workplace, both toxic and nontoxic, and determine which chemicals have been designated by the department as toxic or highly toxic chemicals. They would also need to determine which chemicals should be transitioned to safer alternatives.
The bill, LD 1165, will receive a public hearing before the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee in the coming weeks.
Goode is House chair of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee. He is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents part of Bangor.