There are a number of federal, state, and local laws, regulations, ordinances, and standards that pertain to the laboratory activities and conditions that affect the environment, health, and safety. These are reviewed briefly in this chapter. For safety laws and standards described in detail elsewhere in this book, this chapter will refer to that section.
Laws, rules, regulations, and ordinances are created and enforced by federal, state, and local governments. International regulations apply to air and marine transport of laboratory materials. Safety standards and codes are created by nongovernmental bodies, but are important to know because they may be required by a law (by reference), as condition of occupancy, by your insurance company, by an accrediting body, or as a widely accepted industry standard. In some cases, following a safety guideline is a condition of receiving a research grant.
Please note that this chapter is not meant to be a compliance guide. This chapter only provides an overview of certain laws. Further, this chapter mostly focuses on federal requirements. State and local requirements may be more stringent, so be sure to check to determine the specific rules that apply.
11.A.1 Making Safety Laws and Their Rationale
Organizations that handle chemicals in laboratories should participate in the regulatory process so that regulators will understand the impact that proposed rules can have on the laboratory environment. The best way to provide input to this process is through dialogue with the regulators, which can take place directly or in collaboration with the institution’s environmental health and safety (EHS) or governmental relations office. Also, professional associations, such as the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), as well as trade associations such as the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Campus Health Safety and Environmental Management Association (CHSEMA), regularly comment on proposed regulations, especially proposed federal regulations (which, by law, require solicitation of comment from interested parties). Participation in the regulatory process through such groups is encouraged.
A brief description of the federal legislative and regulatory processes may be helpful. Laws are a product of legislative activity. Legislation is usually proposed by senators and representatives to achieve a desired result, for example, improved employee safety or environmental protection. Proposed laws are often known by their Senate or House file numbers, for example, S.xxx or H.R.xxx. Copies of proposed laws can be obtained by visiting thomas.loc.gov, the Web site for the legislative search engine at the Library of Congress, or by requesting them from local offices of House or Senate members. Sponsors of proposed legislation are open to comment from the public. Once a law is passed, it is known by its Public Law number, for example, P.L. 94-580, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). It is published in the United States Code and is referenced by title and section number; 42 USC § 6901 et seq. is the citation for RCRA.
When a law is passed, it is assigned to an administrative unit (agency or department) for development of rules and regulations that will implement the purpose of the legislation. The major federal agencies involved in regulation of laboratory chemicals are the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register, a daily publication of federal agency activities. Typically, a public comment period and perhaps public hearings are specified, during which all affected parties have an opportunity to present their support for or concerns with the regulations as proposed. This is the second significant opportunity for involvement in the regulatory process. Final rules are published in the Federal Register and in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is updated annually to include all changes during the previous year. Rules in the CFR are referenced by title and part number; for example, 40 CFR Parts 260–272 is the citation for RCRA’s hazardous waste rules.
It is helpful to understand the rationale that underlies EHS laws and regulations. These laws reflect congressional, state, and local legislative concerns about worker safety, human health, and the environment, and enjoy strong public support.
Regulations and compliance with them is complicated by the fact that it is a virtual impossibility for EHS regulators to weigh every risk precisely. To attempt chemical-by-chemical regulation of the thousands of known, and unknown, chemicals would be so onerous and time-consuming as to leave many serious hazards unregulated. Consequently, regulators attempt to strike a balance by regulating classes of hazards and risks.
Those managing and working in laboratories should also recognize that violation of EHS laws and regulations not only may pose unnecessary risks to those in the laboratory and the surrounding community, but