also can result in significant civil penalties (at publication of this book, some laws allow maximum fines of more than $30,000 per day per violation), as well as criminal penalties. Violations can erode community confidence in an institution’s seriousness of purpose in safeguarding the environment and complying with the law. Prudent practice requires not only scientific prudence, but also prudent behavior in terms of preventing the risks of noncompliance, adverse publicity, and damage to public trust and an institution’s community support.

11.A.2 OSHA and Laboratories

It is important to understand the relationships between the regulations and standards that mediate laboratory activities. The OSHA Laboratory Standard (Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, 29 CFR § 1910.1450) is the primary regulation, but laboratory personnel and EHS staff should understand its relationship to the hazard communication standard. In addition, the general duty clause is often invoked, and OSHA standards not written specifically for laboratories may also apply. Laboratory personnel also need to know the relationship between OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (PELs), ACGIH threshold limit values (TLVs), and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure limits (RELs).

11.A.2.1 OSHA Enforcement and State OSHA Laws

Enforcement of OSHA standards (such as the Laboratory Standard), may be a shared responsibility of the federal government and of state occupational safety and health programs. Under Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, individual states may be authorized by federal OSHA to administer the act if they adopt a plan for development and enforcement of standards that is at least as effective as the federal standards. These states are known as “state-plan” states. In states that do not administer their own occupational safety and health programs, federal OSHA is the regulator, covering all nonpublic employers. State-plan states have generally included public employees in their regulatory approach. What this means is that a given institution may be subject to (1) the federal Laboratory Standard, enforced by federal OSHA; (2) a state laboratory standard, enforced by state OSHA; or (3) if a public institution is not subject to OSHA regulation, state public institution health and safety regulations enforced by a state agency. The EHS office at each institution should have a copy of the applicable standard.

11.A.2.2 The General Duty Clause and “Nonlaboratory” OSHA Standards

Another important point to understand about OSHA and laboratories is that although the Laboratory Standard supersedes existing OSHA health standards, other OSHA rules on topics not Specifically addressed in the standard remain applicable. The so-called general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires an employer to “furnish to each of his employees … a place of employment … free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm …” and requires an employee to “comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules … issued pursuant to this chapter which are applicable to his own actions and conduct” continues to be applicable and, indeed, is one of the most commonly cited sections in cases of alleged OSHA violations.

11.A.2.3 Laboratory Standard Versus Hazard Communication Standard

As noted above, the Laboratory Standard is intended, with limited exceptions, to be the primary OSHA standard governing employees who routinely work in laboratories. The Hazard Communication Standard, on the other hand, applies to all nonlaboratory operations “where chemicals are either used, distributed or are produced for use or distribution.”

The obvious difficulty is that workers in maintenance shops, even if in a laboratory building, would be covered by the Hazard Communication Standard, not the Laboratory Standard. The requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard are, in certain respects, more demanding than those of the Laboratory Standard. For example, the Hazard Communication Standard requires that each container of hazardous chemicals used by the employee be labeled clearly with the identity of the chemical and appropriate hazard warnings, whereas the Laboratory Standard requires only that employers “ensure that labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals are not removed or defaced.”

The Hazard Communication Standard further requires that copies of material safety data sheets (MS-DSs) for each hazardous chemical be readily accessible to employees, whereas the Laboratory Standard requires only that employers ‘’maintain MSDSs that are received with incoming shipments, and ensure that they are readily accessible. …”

Custodial and maintenance staff who service the laboratory continue to be governed by the Hazard Communication Standard and other OSHA standards, which set forth the information, training, and health



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