Stay Involved: Working with Regulatory Agencies

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Stay Involved: Working with Regulatory Agencies

By Diane M. Calabrese / Published September 2014



Regulatory Agencies

The Federal Register, or Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), dates to 1935 and the Federal Register Act. In its first 12 years, the CFR listed more than 100,000 regulations, which greatly exceeded the 66,000 federal laws that were enacted prior to the existence of the CFR.

The source of the foregoing information is an entry written by Harry Silver, a member of the New York State Bar, for Collier’s Encyclopedia (1976). (Silver laments the CFR does not make the “great mass of documents” sufficiently accessible to the individuals who are subject to their legal force.)

It has never been easy to keep pace with regulations. The proliferation of regulating bodies at the federal, state, and local level is surpassed only by the increase in the number of regulations. In the electronic age, online newsletters and alerts from regulators, as well as searchable databases, help.

Professional organizations known well to our readers, such as CETA, PWNA, UAMCC, WJTA-IMCA, and IKECA, assist members with sorting through relevant regulations and responding to proposed regulations. So do umbrella organizations that foster collaboration across industries on the topics that unite them.

Deborah Wetzel, manager—media relations at ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers] in New York, NY, provides some advice about how to expedite the process of staying current. She starts with a nod to ANSI, the American National Standards Institute that has been working since 1918 (as a not-for-profit) to arrive at consensus standards for U.S. businesses. (Product certification for electrical components and for wastewater treatment are among ANSI’s concerns.)

“With respect to standards, the target audience might be well-served to monitor potential industry standards that are established under the auspices of ANSI—for example, by subscribing to ANSI’s “What’s New” newsletter and reading its weekly “Standards Action” bulletin,” says Wetzel. She points out that the bulletin “lists new and revised standards being developed by ANSI accredited entities, as well as ISO and IEC.” See www.ansi.org/news_publications/periodicals/overview.aspx?menuid=7.

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization. IEC is the International Electrotechnical Commission. Both entities provide a mechanism for industry members to collaborate on the development of standards. And increasingly, the designation ISO/IEC links the groups in the standards they propose jointly.

“Most industry standards—including those developed by ASME—are written by committees that are open to participation by any materially-affected stakeholder,” says Wetzel. That means it’s important to be involved and provide information on standards—as well as on proposed federal regulations.

Another high-visibility name in the development of standards is the not-for-profit ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials), which dates to 1898 when a group of chemists and engineers got together to ensure the integrity of materials.

There is overlap among the interests of the consensus building groups. There is also collaboration. In 2014, a two-day workshop is being offered five times (the next one is scheduled for September 18–19) for interested stakeholders to the American National Standard ANSI/ASTM E2659-09, one that concerns documentation of accreditation and training to accredit.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) established in 1896 also develops consensus codes and standards that affect our industry. NFPA focuses on standards to reduce the risk of fire.

“Most federal regulatory agencies have free e-newsletter subscriptions and automatic notification systems that provide notices of proposed rulemakings under their jurisdiction,” says Wetzel. Take a few minutes and sign up.

Government regulators and groups of industry members that work to establish standards are not the only players in the regulatory sphere. Entities have emerged to certify that standards are met. The personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required in workplaces (as determined by the job undertaken) can be trusted because it has been tested and certified by an independent group. Trusted manufacturers look upon the extra scrutiny as redundancy that improves safety by double checking their efforts and the efforts of their competitors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor has a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) program. NRTLs are able to evaluate products and test them for conformity with safety standards (e.g., general construction, electrical) established by OSHA. Each NRTL has its own certification mark.

For a list of current NRTLs, see www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/index.html. Among them are the familiar Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), NSF International (NSF) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA), as well as many others.

Good Ends

Regulators and standard-setting, non-governmental organizations strive to make certain that economic activity proceeds in a vigorous way and a coherent and safe way. Sometimes we focus on the regulation and forget the larger goals. All are working toward good ends. And they have been for some time.

Prior to the adoption of the Water Pollution Control Act in 1948, more than 100 bills were introduced (across 50 years) to thwart water pollution. The Federal Refuse Act, which banned discharge of waste into navigable waters, dates to 1899.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dates only to 1970. Today, the EPA (www.epa.gov) offers several ways to keep track of rules and rulemaking. One of the most comprehensive is Regulations.gov, which is a multi-agency portal. The EPA website also offers quick links to states.

The EPA is working to get the message across that lack of required permits and release of EPA-designated pollutants violate environmental rules. In 2012, EPA fines totaled $252 million. In contrast, in 2010 total fines were $110 million.

Often, the regulatory interests of two or more government entities meet, such as with work involving asbestos where EPA and OSHA both have a significant interest, the former in environmental outcomes and the latter in worker safety. The carbon credit or trading mechanisms being discussed as a means to nudge all of us, especially energy producers, to rethink activities that bump up the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will involve EPA and other agencies.

The Department of Transportation (DOT), which dates to 1966, has responsibility not only for safety of various modes of transportation, but also for the efficiency of transportation systems. Members of our industry know that conveying hazardous materials requires appropriate training and certification from DOT authorized instructors. The Department of Energy, like the DOT, also has overlapping interests with the EPA.

As we write in July, the EPA is taking public comment on reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by not allowing them in vehicle air-conditioning units (or aerosols or refrigeration units). The proposed rule might have an impact on the movement of contractors (i.e., cost of trucks) and supplies (i.e., certain chemicals) used in our industry.

The rules deriving from the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Clean Water Act, which are written and enforced by the EPA, are well known to our readers. So, too, are the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), which are established for the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials and overseen by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) at DOT.

Yet there are other federal entities that have authority of interest to our industry.

In 1998, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) was authorized under an amendment to the CAA in 1990. CSB is completely independent of EPA and OSHA, although it can collaborate with them. It investigates accidents involving chemicals, and it identifies chemical hazards not addressed by the other agencies and makes recommendations. CSB seems to have become more active in the last few years and its recommendations should be part of those reviewed regularly.

Any federal regulatory entity may have an interest that links it to our industry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which celebrated its centenary in 2013, collects complaints about unfair and deceptive practices affecting consumers (to promote competition). And in 2008, the U.S. Fire Administration in the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported on the recall of a pressure washer that had a motor vulnerable to overheating (a fire hazard). The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has an interest in all devices (e.g., remote-control assists) that may conflict with transmission of signals it regulates.

As we arrive near the end of a short account, there is a two-part article from Cleaner Times|IWA that is worth recalling and rereading (and keeping at hand). It is “Chemical Glossary – common names and abbreviations, regulatory agencies, pertinent laws and phrases, and related organizations.” Part 1 appeared in the August 2012 issue and Part 2 appeared in the October 2012 issue. The thorough A to Z listing complements this text.

The comprehensive view that the federal government takes on regulations is best understood in the context of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. The General Serv-ices Administration (GSA) reminds us that NEPA requires that all parts of the federal government use all means that are practical to protect the environment; and with that charge, environmental protection becomes the mandate of every federal agency and department. (Rules are here to stay.)

If a small business needs assistance with sorting through applicable rules, a good place to start is with resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA.gov). The SBA has been providing assistance since 1953.