Chemical Acts, Regulatory Bodies, Codes and Standards: USA

Chemical Acts, Regulatory Bodies, Codes and Standards: USA

The United States (US) has a variety of regulatory bodies, acts, standards, and pieces of legislation around chemical safety. These are largely concerned with the health and safety of the individuals who use chemicals, guard employee safety, and hold employers accountable for keeping their workers safe.

In this article, we’ll examine some of the acts, regulatory bodies, codes and standards, and their implications for those working with chemicals in the USA. 


The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

One of the most important pieces of legislation regarding chemical safety in the US, TSCA ensures that chemicals are used, stored, and disposed of in ways that are safe for human health and the environment. Passed in 1976, this Act regulates the use, importation, and disposal of a wide range of new and existing commercial chemicals in the US. It does not regulate food, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products. The TSCA gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to request reports and impose restrictions concerning chemical substances and mixtures. More information on the TSCA can be found here

Regulatory Bodies

Several US federal agencies focus on improving workplace health and safety. Some of the more widely known organisations are detailed below.

OSHA: Occupational Health and Safety Administration 

Established in 1970, OSHA was created to ensure safe and healthy working conditions by providing training and setting safety standards. It is the governing regulatory authority in the US, and a subsidiary of the United States Department of Labor. It enforces standards by implementing outreach, education, and assistance programs. For example, OSHA introduced HazCom 2012, which includes the GHS standard. Further information regarding OSHA and their services, such as chemical hazards and toxic substances, can be found here.

NIOSH: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, NIOSH is a research agency that focuses on employee health, safety, and empowerment. Founded under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH represents over 1,300 employees from a range of fields, including nursing, industrial hygiene, epidemiology, medicine, chemistry, economics, psychology and many roles across the engineering field. NIOSH has noted that they will ensure that “every man and woman in the Nation [has] safe and healthful working conditions to preserve our human resources.”  

EPA: Environmental Protection Agency 

The EPA focuses on the protection of human health and the environment. To achieve this goal, the EPA writes and enforces policy. It studies and writes about environmental issues, educates the public regarding the environment, and awards grants. As part of their mission, the EPA ensures that there is clean air, land, and water and that contaminated lands are cleaned up by the responsible people. It further ensures that commercial chemicals are regulated and all groups of society have access to clear and accurate information.  

US National Standards

IFC: International Fire Code

The IFC establishes the minimum precedent for fire prevention around new and existing buildings, processes, and facilities. It aims to address the health and safety concerns surrounding conditions hazardous to life and infrastructure from fire, explosion, handling of hazardous materials, and occupancy of buildings. Compatible with the International Code Council’s (ICC) family of codes, the IFC has been adopted in 42 states, including California, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, New York City, and Puerto Rico.     

NFPA: National Fire Protection Association

The NFPA is a global organization that aims to reduce death, injury, property damage, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. They have published more than 300 consensus codes and standards, which aim to minimize the chance and effects of fire and associated risks. NFPA’s codes and standards are administered by more than 8,000 volunteers across 250 Technical Committees. They advocate for passion, knowledge, and dissemination of information through outreach, education, research, and advocacy. 

HAZCOM/HCS: Hazard Communication Standard

HazCom is the set of standards, procedures, and processes used in workplaces to ensure effective communication regarding health and safety when working with chemicals. Since 2012, the HazCom system has aligned with GHS, ensuring consistent communication regarding hazardous chemicals, Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and chemical labelling.  

Global Systems 

GHS: Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals

Created in 2002 by the UN, the GHS is a system of coordinating chemical classification around the world. The system provides globally consistent labels, criteria and naming conventions around health, physical, and environmental hazards. These are further classified according to the nine pictograms as follows:

  1. Flammable
  2. Oxidizing 
  3. Acute toxicity
  4. Corrosive, eye damage
  5. Explosive
  6. Irritant, hazardous to ozone layer, acute toxicity
  7. Environmental toxicity
  8. Serious health hazards, e.g., carcinogens
  9. Gas under pressure

For more information regarding how to use chemical safety signs, pictograms, and charts for hazard identification, click here

State-based regulations: California 

Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act aka Proposition (Prop) 65

Established in 1986, this Californian law, also known as Proposition 65 or Prop 65, regulates the use of hazardous chemicals in the state. For example, according to Prop 65, chemicals that “are known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity” have to be clearly labelled. Currently, the list has over 900 chemicals, and the warning labels can be found on a range of items, including dishes, pesticides and padlocks.   

Chemwatch North America

Although not a regulatory body, Chemwatch North America is here to help with all your chemical regulation needs. From our offices in Michigan, North Carolina, and Tennessee, Chemwatch provides personalised training and a direct customer service line to all of its US customers. Contact us today for help regarding your chemical labelling, Risk Assessment, SDS authoring, SDS management, SDS distribution, and more!


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