Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board

Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (or CSB) is an independent agency of the United States Government charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the agency's board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

The Board is authorized by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and became operational in January 1998. The Senate legislative history states: "The principal role of the new chemical safety board is to investigate accidents to determine the conditions and circumstances which led up to the event and to identify the cause or causes so that similar events might be prevented."

Congress gave the CSB a unique statutory mission and provided in law that no other agency or executive branch official may direct the activities of the Board. Following the model of the National Transportation Safety Board and the United States Department of Transportation, Congress directed that the CSB's investigative function be completely independent of the rulemaking, inspection, and enforcement authorities of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as Congress recognized that Board investigations would identify chemical hazards that were not addressed by those agencies. The legislative history states:

[T]he investigations conducted by agencies with dual responsibilities tend to focus on violations of existing rules as the cause of the accident almost to the exclusion of other contributing factors for which no enforcement or compliance actions can be taken. The purpose of an accident investigation (as authorized here) is to determine the cause or causes of an accident whether or not those causes were in violation of any current and enforceable requirement.

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