Read the CSB Strategic Plan for FY 2022 - 2026

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating chemical incidents to determine the cause or probable cause. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Agency's board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

The CSB's mission is to "drive chemical safety excellence through independent investigations to protect communities, workers, and the environment."

The CSB's vision is "a nation free from chemical disasters."

The CSB was established to investigate incidents and hazards resulting from the production, processing, and handling of chemical substances that can cause death, serious injury, or substantial environmental or property damage. The CSB does not issue fines or citations, but does make recommendations to facilities, regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industry organizations, labor groups, and others. Congress designed the CSB to be non-regulatory and independent of other agencies so that its investigations might, where appropriate, review the effectiveness of regulations and regulatory enforcement.

The CSB investigative staff includes chemical and mechanical engineers, industrial safety experts, and other specialists with experience in the private and public sectors. Many investigators have years of chemical industry experience.

After a CSB team reaches a safe location at or near the chemical incident site, investigators begin their work by conducting detailed interviews of witnesses such as facility employees, managers, and offsite entities. Chemical samples and equipment obtained from chemical incident sites may be sent to independent laboratories for testing. Company safety and maintenance records, inventories, operating procedures, and other pertinent documentation are examined as investigators seek an understanding of the circumstances of the chemical incident.

Over the course of several months, investigators sift through evidence, consult with Board members, and review regulations and industry practices before drafting key findings, conclusions, and recommendations. During the process, investigators may confer with facility managers, workers, labor groups, as well as government authorities. The investigative process generally takes six to eighteen months to complete, and a draft report is then submitted to the Board for consideration. Reports may be adopted through a notational vote of the Board or in a formal public meeting.

In addition to investigations of specific chemical incidents, the Board is authorized to conduct research and studies with respect to the potential for accidental releases, whether or not an accidental release has occurred, if there is evidence which indicates the presence of a potential hazard or hazards. In 2002, the Board's first hazard study on reactive chemicals reviewed more than 150 serious chemical incidents involving uncontrolled chemical reactions in industry. This study led to new recommendations to OSHA and EPA for regulatory changes. A second hazard study on combustible dusts was completed in 2006.

Both chemical incident investigations and hazard studies lead to new safety recommendations, which are the Board's primary tool for achieving positive chemical safety change. Recommendations are issued to government agencies, companies, trade associations, labor unions, and other groups. Implementation of each safety recommendation is tracked and monitored by Recommendations Specialists within the CSB's Office of Recommendations. When recommended actions have been completed satisfactorily, the recommendation may be closed by a Board vote.

While some recommendations may be adopted immediately, others require extensive effort and advocacy to achieve implementation. Board members and staff work to promote safety actions stemming from CSB recommendations. In many cases, the lessons from CSB investigations are applicable to many organizations beyond the facility investigated. Many CSB recommendations have been successfully implemented and are actively protecting communities, workers, and the environment.