ment. Because environmental regulations, particularly RCRA regulations, have not yet, in general, recognized the unique nature of the laboratory setting, some rules may be unnecessarily onerous for laboratories, without producing the expected increase in environmental protection. The best way to influence the regulatory process is through dialogue with the regulators. This dialogue, particularly at the state and local levels, can take place directly or in collaboration with the institution's environmental health and safety or governmental relations office. Also, professional associations, such as the American Chemical Society, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, as well as trade associations such as the Chemical Manufacturers Association, 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, or Copies of proposed laws can be obtained, even at this early stage in the process, 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 volume and chapter 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 two major agencies involved in regulation of chemicals are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register, a daily publication of federal agency activities. 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; 40 CFR 260-272 is the citation for RCRA's hazardous waste rules.


Beginning in the early 1970s, groups and individuals representing laboratories contended that the then existing OSHA standards, designed for exposure conditions in an industrial production setting, were inappropriate for the very different exposure conditions in laboratories. As a result of these concerns, OSHA in 1981 undertook the development of a special regulatory regime for laboratories. The Laboratory Standard, promulgated in 1990, was the result (see Appendix A). In its Laboratory Standard, OSHA refers to the National Research Council's (1981) Prudent Practices for Handling Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories as "nonmandatory ... guidance to assist employers in the development of the Chemical Hygiene Plan." It is anticipated that the present edition, Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals, will likewise be referenced.

9.C.1 The Chemical Hygiene Plan

The centerpiece of the Laboratory Standard is the Chemical Hygiene Plan. This is a written plan developed by the employer (e.g., university or research organization) and has the following major elements:

  • employee information and training about the hazards of chemicals in the work area, including how to detect their presence or release, work practices and how to use protective equipment, and emergency response procedures;

  • the circumstances under which a particular laboratory operation requires prior approval from the employer;

  • standard operating procedures for work with hazardous chemicals;

  • criteria for use of control measures, such as engineering controls or personal protection equipment;

  • measures to ensure proper operation of fume hoods and other protective equipment;

  • provisions for additional employee protection for work with "select carcinogens" (as defined in the Laboratory Standard) and for reproductive toxins or substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity;

  • provisions for medical consultations and examinations for employees; and

  • designation of a chemical hygiene officer.

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