Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Environmental Compliance: One Chemical, Many Regulations

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Aug 02, 2013 government provided a unified approach to chemical regulation, then each chemical might be subject to a single set of requirements, which ideally would be tailored to reflect chemical-specific hazards throughout its life cycle.  Instead, each chemical is subject to its own loosely connected (some would say haphazard) collection of environmental, health and safety (EH&S) requirements.  Some are federal, some are state (or provincial if you’re in Canada), and others are regional and even local.  You may need to refer to agencies at all three levels (federal, state and local) to identify your regulators and their requirements – although many organizations only deal with the agency responsible for permitting and inspecting day-to-day activities.

Every EH&S law is designed to provide protections against hazards, and many cover physical and biological hazards posed by some aspect of chemical handling.  Because these laws are fragmented, you must consider which laws may apply to each stage of each activity that involve each chemical your organization may create, acquire, handle, and/or discard. 

Target Steps in Chemical Use Life Cycles and Requirements Associated With Each Step

1. Chemical Formulation, Design and Manufacture

  • Information requirements on manufacturers and importers about chemical characteristics and hazards (Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); Hazardous Substances Act, Consumer Product Safety Act, and specialized federal labeling laws; Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and state pesticide laws)

2. Chemical Acquisition by Intermediate Processor or End-user

  • Worker protection requirements—Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) or Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) that summarize chemical characteristics and hazards (Occupational Safety and Health Act)

  • Hazardous materials transportation requirements—getting materials to the workplace; container labeling and packaging requirements (Hazardous Materials Transportation laws)

3. Chemical Receiving/off-loading and Onsite Movement to Inventory/Storage

  • Hazardous materials transportation requirements for off-loading

  • Local building code standards for construction, signs, and quantity limits

  • Local fire code standards for construction, signs, and quantity limits

  • Worker safety requirements for loading docks, off-loading and onsite movement of materials, personal protective equipment (PPE)

4. Chemical Storage (in Central Inventory, or in Smaller Inventory Locations at Individual Worksites at a Facility)

  • Local building and fire code standards

  • Worker protection requirements for signs, access and egress

5. Chemical Movement from Storage to Use Location Within a Facility

  • Local building and fire code standards

  • Worker protection requirements for and onsite movement of materials

6. Chemical Use/Application

  • Worker protection requirements for potential chemical exposures, which may include general information and training requirements (e.g., Hazard Communication Standard, Laboratory Standard), general technical standards (e.g., ventilation, personal protective equipment (PPE)), specific requirements for types of uses (e.g., dipping and coating, spray finishing)

  • Local building and fire code standards

  • Environmental controls, for air and water

  • Waste/emission capture requirements to facilitate waste management

7. Management of Chemicals in Products

  • Labeling and packaging requirements

  • Transportation requirements for shipments offsite

8. Management of Wastes and Emissions

  • Onsite management requirements for non-hazardous, hazardous and medical waste management requirements (as applicable)

  • Air emission requirements to protect ambient air quality

  • Wastewater discharge requirements to protect ambient water quality

  • Workplace/worker monitoring requirements to document ambient conditions and health and safety impacts

  • Requirements applicable to off-site shipments of non-hazardous, hazardous and medical waste

  • Off-site management requirements for non-hazardous, hazardous and medical waste management requirements (as applicable)

Self-Assessment Checklist

The first step toward compliance with chemical-based statutory and regulatory requirements is to develop a thorough inventory of chemicals in the workplace, and procedures for maintaining that inventory as chemicals are purchased and used.

  • Has the organization identified all chemicals it uses, in each of its workplaces?  

    • If the organization manufactures or imports chemicals, has it prepared a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each chemical?
    • If the organization is an end-user of chemicals purchased from other organizations, has it obtained a MSDS/SDS for each chemical?
  • Has the organization identified where and how each chemical is used, the types of actual or potential exposures involved with each chemical, and each employee or contractor who is or may be exposed to the chemical?  

  • Has the organization identified EH&S requirements applicable to its chemicals, at each step in chemical management? 

  • Has the organization developed EH&S compliance programs necessary to meet its responsibilities under all applicable EH&S legal and regulatory requirements?   

  • Has the organization evaluated the EH&S hazards associated with its activities, to determine if any hazards are not fully addressed in the course of compliance with applicable requirements?  

Where Can I Go For Additional Information?

Because there is no unified EH&S regulatory framework, most information sources are fragmentary and scattered.  Important US federal agencies provide requirements and supporting information on their websites, including:

Alternatively, Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with EH&S requirements. These include:

Like What You've Read? Subscribe to Our Blog Now Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 25 years. He was involved in developing 16 existing products, including Environmental Compliance: A Simplified National GuideGreenhouse Gas Auditing of Supply Chains and The Complete Guide to Environmental Law.

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at:


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Tags: Audit Standards, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, Hazcom, MSDS, mact