Standard Article

Regulations and Guidelines in the Workplace

  1. Eula Bingham Ph.D.,
  2. L. Faye Grimsley MSPH, CIH

Published Online: 15 APR 2003

DOI: 10.1002/047126363X.agr359

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

How to Cite

Bingham, E. and Grimsley, L. F. 2003. Regulations and Guidelines in the Workplace. Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2003


Occupational diseases can be used as the first historical markers for concern about toxic substances in the workplace. The passage in 1798 of the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen established The Marine Hospital Service, which was later named the Public Health Service. This was the first real legislation that dealt with occupational disease.

Research and technology provide the rationale and the methodologies used to develop legislation, regulations, and guidelines that reduced workplace hazards. However, the main factors bringing about the passage of laws and/or regulations are likely to be social. These have included catastrophes, such as mine explosions, asbestos disease, epidemics, and the Gauley bridge episode, political movements such as the environmental and civil rights movements, and organizations capable of pressing for legislation, such as labor organizations, community groups, and trade associations.

In the early part of this century, regulations and guidelines to control toxic substances in workplaces emerged out of social forces such as those introduced by labor unions and social reformers. States were at the forefront of early efforts on worker health. Among governmental bodies, the development of guidelines and regulations covering toxic substances was varied.

Among the governmental bodies in the United States, the development of guidelines and regulations for toxic substances evolved over the first half of the twentieth century by a fragmented process. Certain states developed both exposure limits and practices for reducing exposures. In the United States, two major sources of numerical limits for various chemical and physical agents were set by ANSI, which is made up of professionals mainly from industry, government, and sometimes academia. ACGIH membership consisted of professionals employed in government (federal, state, or local) and academia, but input was routinely sought from industry specialists.

The TLV Committee of the ACGIH, established in 1941, was composed of six nationally recognized industrial hygienists and toxicologists not associated with private industry.

TLVs were prepared only for the use of industrial hygienists, who could exercise their own judgment in applying these values. They were not to be used for legal purposes. TLVs are based on the best available information from industrial experience and human and animal experimental studies—when possible, from a combination of these sources. The rationale for choosing limiting values differs from substance to substance.

The issue of threshold effects is controversial, and scientists argue for and against threshold theories. Beginning in 1988, concerns were raised by numerous persons regarding the adequacy or health protectiveness of TLVs. The key question raised was, do the TLVs protect enough workers.

OELs have also been set by OSHA and NIOSH. Under the OSHAct, exposure limits are set via specific procedures. Criteria documents and literature reviews published by NIOSH serve as a basis for Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs). These RELs provide a scientific basis for OSHA to use in preparing a proposal (21), however, it should be noted that the constraints in the OSHAct require considering technical and economic feasibility, so that the permissible exposure limits (PELs) that OSHA sets are usually greater than the RELs that are based only on health considerations.

Legislation, standards and guidelines the U.S. are discussed. Various U.S. agencies involved in health and safety such as the EPA, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Transportation are detailed. Other sections involve governmental regulation of toxic chemical in the workplace, exposure prevention guidelines, and global standards.


  • regulations;
  • guidelines;
  • legislation;
  • United States;
  • agencies;
  • Coast Guard;
  • EPA;
  • Mine Safety;
  • NRC;
  • exposure limits;
  • skin;
  • mixtures;
  • carcinogens;
  • prevention;
  • training;
  • global standards