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 (MSDSs) 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 ...." Many institutions, faced with the difficulty of designing environmental health and safety programs that meet the requirements of the Laboratory Standard and the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard, have opted to follow the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard for all workplaces, laboratory and nonlaboratory, while additionally adopting and implementing the Chemical Hygiene Plan requirements of the Laboratory Standard as they apply to laboratories. Careful comparison of the two standards should be made when designing an environmental health and safety program.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was enacted by Congress in 1976 to address the problem of waste disposal and reduction. Subtitle C of that act established a system for controlling hazardous waste from generation to disposal. This is often referred to as the "cradle to grave" system. The cradle, however, is the point at which the hazardous material first becomes a "hazardous waste," not when it is first received in a laboratory. Under RCRA, the Environmental Protection Agency is given great responsibilities in promulgating detailed regulations governing the generation, transport, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA and EPA regulations were written with a focus on industrial-scale generation of hazardous waste, but, with very limited exceptions, they also apply to laboratories that use chemicals.
It is important to understand who is a generator under RCRA. A generator is "any person, by site [emphasis added], whose act or process produces hazardous waste .. ." There are three categories of generator: (1) Large-quantity generators are those whose facilities generate 1,000 kg or more per month (about five 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste) or over 1 kg of "acutely hazardous waste" per month. By this measure, most large research institutions, including the larger universities, are large-quantity generators. (2) Small-quantity generators, to whom special rules apply, generate more than 100 but less than 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per month (and accumulate less than 6,000 kg at any one time) and less than 1 kg of "acutely hazardous waste" per month (and accumulate less than 1 kg at any one time). (3) A conditionally exempt small-quantity generator generates 100 kg or less of hazardous waste per month and less than 1 kg of "acutely hazardous waste." The special requirements applicable to conditionally exempt small-quantity generators can be found in 40 CFR 261.5.
"Individual generation site" is defined by RCRA regulation as a contiguous site at or on which hazardous waste is generated. Because most colleges, universities, and research institutions are located in one geographic site, they are viewed as a single generator under the definition above, and the entire facility has a single EPA generator identification number. This means that each individual laboratory generating waste is not a "generator" within the terms of RCRA, but, as a part of the overall institutional "generator," each laboratory must comply with generator requirements. Obviously, multisite institutions are required to have separate EPA identification numbers for each site.
In determining whether a site is an "individual generation site," some EPA regional offices have been quite strict in relying on the distinction of whether the site has any public roads, the reason being RCRA's objective of not allowing unregulated transport of hazardous waste on public ways. In the definitions section of the RCRA regulations, "on-site" is defined as "the same or geographically contiguous property which may be divided by public or private right-of-way, provided the entrance and exit between the properties is at a crossroads intersection, and access is by crossing as opposed to going along [emphasis added] the right-of-way." The significance of this interpretation is that hazardous