OSHA recently requested public comment on its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which would extend the OMB’s approval of an OSHA Information Collection Request (ICR) regarding the agency’s Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories Standard (Laboratory Standard) (29 CFR 1910.1450).
Agencies issue ICRs for a variety of reasons, including collection of data from stakeholders to determine if a regulation needs to be revised. The Laboratory Standard was promulgated in 1990. OSHA did not indicate that a revision was in the works in its latest Regulatory Agenda. According to OSHA, its primary aim in seeking public comment is to determine whether the agency’s estimates regarding the time and resource burden of compliance with the laboratory standard’s paperwork requirements.
The Laboratory Standard was developed to protect employees in workplaces where relatively small quantities of hazardous chemicals are used on a nonproduction basis. In 2011, OSHA estimated that more than 500,000 people are employed in laboratories in the United States. The Laboratory Standard does not apply to all laboratories. Excluded from coverage are most quality control laboratories. These labs are usually adjuncts of production operations and typically perform repetitive procedures to ensure the reliability of a product or a process. Coverage does apply to labs that conduct research and development and related analytical work regardless of whether or not they are used only to support manufacturing.
Among its provisions, the Laboratory Standard requires that the employer designate a chemical hygiene officer who is responsible for implementing a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP), which the employer is responsible for developing. Other provisions address chemical exposure monitoring where appropriate, medical consultation when exposure occurs, criteria for the use of personal protective equipment and engineering controls, and special precautions for particularly hazardous substances.
The CHP must be tailored to reflect the specific chemical hazards present in the laboratory where it is to be used. Laboratory personnel must receive training regarding the Laboratory Standard, the CHP, and other laboratory safety practices, including exposure detection, physical and health hazards associated with chemicals, and protective measures.
The CHP must include a minimum of eight elements, including:
- Standard operating procedures relevant to safety and health considerations for each activity involving the use of hazardous chemicals;
- Criteria that the employer will use to determine and implement control measures to reduce exposure to hazardous materials;
- Requirements to ensure that fume hoods and other protective equipment are functioning properly and to identify the specific measures the employer will take to ensure proper and adequate performance of such equipment;
- A list of information that must be made available to lab personnel working with hazardous chemicals (e.g., the signs and symptoms associated with exposures to hazardous chemicals used in the laboratory); and
- The circumstances under which a particular laboratory operation, procedure, or activity requires prior approval from the employer or the employer’s designee before being implemented.
The employer must actively verify that the CHP remains effective.
The CHP is the core of the Laboratory Standard and, according to OSHA, is among the top four provisions for which employers are cited for violations; the other three are employee information and training; employee exposure determination; and medical consultation and medical examination.