You’ve more than likely seen the terms “RoHS,” “ADA,” and “OSHA” before. If you have a job, you’re probably more familiar with the last two while taking your lunch break. However, RoHS isn’t a very common term to see unless you’re shopping a certain niche. None of these are really common knowledge, so don’t feel ashamed if you’re reading this and have no clue what I’m talking about. We’ll get to that.
Let’s start with RoHS, what does this abbreviation stand for? “Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive,” it’s in the name. This Act was created by the National Measurement Office (NMO) Enforcement Authority of the UK, and was adopted by the European Union in 2003. The Act took effect in 2006 and is enforced as a law in each state. The United States did not have a RoHS but imported a lot of RoHS approved products. In the last few years, in the May of 2009 to be exact, the U.S. introduced the Environmental Design of Electrical Equipment Act (EDEE) as a Bill in the U.S. House, stating that after July 2010, all imports must be RoHS approved or follow the same regulations below.
In a nutshell, RoHS is a directive in upholding consumer safety and protecting the environment by limiting the amount of harmful materials used in the construction of consumer goods, namely our precious electronics. Technology—Televisions, cable, computers, light bulbs, power tools, toys, and more…how would we get by without them? In Olden Times, the most technology people had was fire and they got along pretty well aside from a lack of medical advances. If it wasn’t for administrations like RoHS, we probably wouldn’t be much better off.
What if every time you paint your bedroom, you surround yourself in leaded walls? Doesn’t sound like a very safe place to spend 8+ hours every day, and thankfully RoHS restricts the amount of lead in a broad array of products, like paint. More notably however, is the effect on electronics and appliances. So, what are these materials and what are the standards that a product must meet?
There are six hazardous materials1 restricted from being used in the construction of products:
- Lead (Pb)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Cadmium (Cd)
- Hexavalent Chromium (Cr6+)
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)
We’ll call these materials “RMs” for “restricted materials.” Five and Six are generally used as flame retardants used in plastic.
The makeup of a product using these RMs is limited to the maximum percentage of 0.1%, except for cadmium which is 0.01%. This means that if any part of a product, not the whole thing cumulatively, but if any single part is made up of more than 0.1% of the RM, then it does not meet the standards set. For example, a computer keyboard has the following components: the outer frame, plastic sheets under the keys, the key caps that cover each key, and the central processor. If more than 0.1% of those plastic sheets use PBB, then the keyboard as a whole is deemed unfit for RoHS requirements.
Some product developers go beyond the RoHS and have their own, tighter restrictions and standards that products must pass. The reasoning for this is designing and editing a different policy for each country’s environmental laws is more expensive than having a worldwide standard. But passing requirements doesn’t stop here. Even if a product uses less than the above stated values of a hazardous material, the manufacturer must also prepare documentation2 illustrating that their product is compliant. Only then are they allowed on the market.
So how can you tell if a product is RoHS compliant? Well, there is no label that products are required to have if they pass the requirements, but many manufacturers have adopted their own marks to separate them from the pack. Perhaps you have seen some of these around.
Personally, I never knew these two hazard materials directives existed until recently, and I’m glad I’m more aware of some of these standards. The world may not be entering Global Warming, or maybe it is (who knows really), but regulations like this are taking a step in the right direction to protect us from dealing with hazardous materials. A lot of RoHS products, not all, but many that I have read about are also ozone friendly and/or environmentally safe. With this in mind, then one could say we are trying to create less hazardous products that can coexist with natural substances.
I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard fan of protecting the environment, but I took a few classes on it in college and my eyes were opened to some of the damage people have created. This isn’t a political blog, and I’m not very political, so I won’t get into it here. All I have to say on the limit of using hazardous materials is I agree with and support it. Nature doesn’t need to be unnecessarily harmed and neither do we.
For example, Electriduct sells a lot of RoHS compliant products and supports the standards. We have many different kinds of solders, cleaners, and other products that follow RoHS regulations. For instance, take a look at some of our products supplied by MG Chemicals: MGC Lead-Free Solder with Silver, MGC Fiber Optic Cleaning, and MGC Silver Conductive Epoxy. All of these items have some purity standards that they meet to ensure a safe product.
The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA was instated by the U.S. Congress in 1990, signed by President George H.W. Bush. This act prohibits discrimination based on disability, under certain circumstances. This falls in line with Equal Employment Opportunity, the Civil Rights act of 1964, where a potential employee cannot be discriminated against concerning race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics. Under this act, “disability” was defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”
There are five sections of this act that give protections to disabled workers, known as “titles.”3
- Employment-No individual with a disability can be discriminated against when seeking employment. This refers to filling out a job application, being hired, promotions, workers’ compensation, training, and other conditions and privileges one may have under employment. One of the “certain circumstances “may apply here, such as a potential employee who is not able to perform their job duties, regardless of reasonable accommodations.
- Public Entities (and public transportation)-Public entities refers to school districts, cities, and counties at the local and state level. This means that no disabled individual can be denied access to the programs and services offered at a public entity. Public transportation is also under this title, and it states that all public transportation on fixed routes is required to have paratransit services.
- Public Accommodations (and Commercial Facilities)-This is pretty straightforward. Any public or commercial facility must provide accommodations giving disabled persons access to such entities, and none shall be discriminated against when taking part in equal enjoyment of goods, services, and facilities. However, another “certain circumstance” is in place here. For instance, a new small business may be excluded from this because it may not have the money to construct ramps or architectural conditions to give access to the disabled, but a large, financially capable corporation may be required to do so.
- Telecommunications-All telecommunication companies in the U.S. are required to ensure functionally equivalent services for consumers with disabilities, such as hearing or speech impairments. An example of this would be Telecommunications Relay Services4, or TRS, wherein someone who is deaf or has poor hearing, speech-disabled, or deafblind can place calls using a keyboard or another assistive device. Today, this is done in real-time and a disabled person can do something as simple as typing out a pizza delivery order, which an operator will then relay to the pizza delivery service.
- Miscellaneous Provisions-This section covers technical provisions or assistance in protecting people who exercise their rights under the ADA, or people who assist others in exercising their rights from retaliation.
What does this have to do with you? Probably nothing; but if you’re a manufacturer of consumer goods, know somebody who is disabled, or are interested in learning more about the ADA, then you may want to look more into the above titles. More specifically Titles 3 and 4, as I assume since you’re on this blog, you have some interest in electronics and appliances. Some manufacturers make products specifically to accommodate people with disabilities; for instance take a look at our ADA compliant access ramp.
I’ve been born with some pretty good genes, and am blessed that I have no genetic problems or disabilities. Any disorder I have is caused by my own mannerisms *cough*minor OCD*cough* and although something like that isn’t covered in the ADA, I’m all for equality. It’s hard to discuss this and the next Act without getting political. In today’s world, we all want equality but we know not everyone is getting it.
However, this is again a step in the right direction. I couldn’t imagine a world where people can’t get work because of their sexual preference or race without someone raising hell, and it goes the same for people with disabilities, whether they are minor or severe. If someone is disabled, let’s say a paraplegic, they can do just about any desk job, HR, etc or even work as a cashier if we’re talking retail stores. Even if I did have a disability, I could still do my job with the proper accommodations, some of which are already a part of the building a.k.a. a ramp if I was in a wheelchair. Either way, whether genetic or accidental, why lessen the pleasure of life because someone is disabled?
Last we have OSHA, which stands for “Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” OSHA is an agency of the United States Department of Labor, established by Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, signed into law on December 29, 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon. It was instated to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance”5. Such conditions, of course, have standards to meet.
The standards and regulations were as follows:
- Limits on chemical exposure
- Employee access to information
- Requirements for the use of personal protective equipment
- Requirements for safety procedures
OSHA adopted these from standard organizations instead of going through the usual requirements for typical rulemaking. Since the act was signed, various programs were created to inform workers and employers about workplace health and safety, and to train them to reduce such hazards. In 2000, OSHA issued an ergonomics standard, which meant work equipment would be designed to fit the human shape, but Congress repealed it; four more standards followed in its wake.
OSHA is responsible for enforcing its own standards in the workplace. To achieve this, the agency sends Compliance Safety and Health Officers to work sites. The officers conduct inspections to assess workplace conditions and whether or not they are meeting OSHA regulations. Usually, the inspections are planned ahead of time, but they can also be requested as a response to a workplace incident or complaints from workers and other individuals.
Now OSHA is something that every place you work should have, and if not, I’d rethink where you’re working. Whenever I think of this act, I get a bit riled up. I’m reminded of two establishments I worked at during my high school years and the poor management they had. I won’t say any names, but both were fast food joints.
One place encouraged slave labor and I wasn’t to receive a wage until I learned how to do everything by memory, can you believe that non-sense? At the other place, I wasn’t supplied with the proper equipment/gear for working in the kitchen. I slipped and burnt my hand right on the stove, man that hurt. You know what my manger said? Not “Are you alright,” but “So, are you planning on suing?” Too bad I didn’t know about OSHA and ADA back in those days, maybe I could have changed a few things. Oh well, no use dwelling in the past.
Are you seeing a pattern?
If you haven’t noticed, all of these have to do with keeping chemical exposure to a minimum among workers and consumers, and the status of a workplace atmosphere. These are all standards and regulations created and enforced to create an equal and safe environment for people to work in. You may have seen OSHA posters in your workplace, and by reading them you get the idea. But you may have also seen many other products, signs, and labels that had to do with the above administrations/acts and had no clue that they were related.
RoHS and OSHA are closely related with their standards on restricting the exposure of hazardous chemicals. OSHA and ADA match up on ADA’s Title III, making public and commercial accommodations; a workplace that gives equal opportunities in employment, if able, should provide handicap accessible facilities and reasonable accommodations. Think about your past employment and the places you’ve worked. How different would they have been if none of these regulations came to pass? Would you have had the same opportunities or even the same experience?