Recent nominations to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) have inspired discussions about its value and role, which are often misunderstood. The CSB was introduced by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments to “drive chemical safety change through independent investigation to protect people and the environment,” in order to achieve “a nation safe from chemical disasters.” Most prominently, the CSB conducts investigations regarding industrial chemical disasters, along with more general chemical accident hazards.
The CSB is an independent federal agency by design, intentionally distinct from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is a non-regulatory, non-enforcement organization that works to prevent accident recurrence through accident analysis and by making recommendations. The CSB does not perform inspections, issue regulations, or enforce them with penalties. Its independence from other agencies is necessary, as the CSB advises organizations such as OSHA, EPA, commercial companies, local governments, standards organizations, trade associations, labor groups, emergency response organizations, educational institutions, and public interest groups. These entities are not obligated to accept CSB counsel, so the CSB must often make persuasive...
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