FDA, DOT, DHS, PHMSA, TSA… Inside The Regulatory Agencies

With so many letters flying around, it’s hard to keep track of who is who. Here’s a guide that will help you navigate the alphabet soup of the federal agencies that overlook the gases and welding industry.

FDA Prescribes Safety
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that the meat you purchase at the market meets health standards, and the pain relievers you buy to relieve headaches will do just that. But the FDA does much more than regulate food standards and over-the-counter drugs. It is the duty of this administration to protect the general health of American citizens.

The FDA employed a single chemist within the Department of Agriculture in 1862. From there, it evolved into the Bureau of Chemistry, and, in 1930, the Food and Drug Administration. Today, the FDA employs over 9,000 and oversees products that make up 25 percent of consumer spending. It is responsible for regulating food as well as drugs and drug-related products. This responsibility includes the regulation of all hospital and medical equipment, including compressed medical gases.

Medical gas regulations are handled primarily by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), a division of the FDA. CDER is in charge of developing and enforcing standards for labeling and designing medical gas containers and closures. Medical gas mix-ups cause a significant number of serious injuries and deaths every year. Improper labeling or distribution of these gases can have severe consequences. CDER regulates everything from the filling and storage of gas cylinders to their facilitation and application. These regulations are an attempt to decrease and eliminate all medical gas related accidents, thus ensuring a safer, healthier population.

DOT Keeps its Eyes on the Road
When you were 16 and you had to take that daunting driver’s road test, it was an employee of the Department of Transportation (DOT) sitting in the passenger seat judging you. The DOT is not just in charge of parallel parking and K-turns, however. Established in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson, its purpose is to ensure safe travel across all modes of transportation. This includes, but is not limited to, automotive, railroad, pipeline and aviation. It is DOT’s responsibility to protect the American people in all means of travel.

The DOT agencies most likely to impact GAWDA members are the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). PHMSA is in charge of regulating the transportation of all hazardous materials, such as flammable or toxic gases, and takes measures to ensure that these materials can be transported safely and efficiently from point A to point B. These measures primarily involve the inspection of facilities and equipment used to transport hazardous materials.

FMCSA handles the screening and regulation of drivers and on-the-road policies. These include communications, regulations and driver licensing. Together, these agencies make a valiant effort to create the safest conditions possible for transporters of hazardous materials.

DHS Tackles Terrorism One Chemical Facility at a Time
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This act marked the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a department designed to protect the nation against further terrorist attacks. The creation of this department resulted in an entire restructuring of the federal government. Agencies such as the Transportation Security Agency, U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection were incorporated into the newly formed DHS. The primary function of this broad new department was to provide protection against any and all threats to the security of the nation. The department monitors the nation’s borders, transportation and any locations determined to be potential targets for terrorist attacks.

The gases and welding industry is regulated heavily by DHS, due to the hazardous nature of its products. The DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection implemented the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards as a means of determining the level of risk for chemical facilities. These regulations categorize facilities into specific risk tiers, conduct security vulnerability assessments and look for ways to further secure chemical facilities. Additionally, any distributor who operates overseas or has clients who operate overseas must meet a long list of regulations at the U.S. border.

All domestic transportation of hazardous materials is regulated by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), an agency of DHS. The TSA works with DOT to ensure that drivers are qualified, and hazardous materials are secured. The DHS, along with TSA and DOT, work together to ensure that the dangerous chemicals being stored and transported are protected against all potential threats.



Gases and Welding Distributors Association