Skip to content

Regulatory Information

Regulations Affecting the Collision Industry

Health, Safety, Environmental

Because we use products that are potentially hazardous to people and the environment, the collision repair industry is subject to numerous laws and regulations that are administered by different agencies on a federal, state, and local level. The consequences of non-compliance can be substantial, potentially endangering the health, or even life, of your people and your business. And, of course, ignorance of the law is never an excuse.

VOC Regulations

A “VOC” as classified for regulatory purposes is “any volatile compound of carbon”. VOCs, in themselves, are not necessarily bad, but when they react with oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in the presence of heat and light, they form ground-level ozone. VOC regulations are intended to reduce ozone levels. VOC’s primarily occur as products of combustion (i.e. vehicles, furnaces, etc.) and the evaporation of SOLVENTS, hence the concerns within our industry.

All collision centers are required by the EPA to be able to report VOC’s consumed and expelled to the atmosphere. This is available on both your paint mixing computer (based on products mixed on the scale) and from your distributor (NCS) based on what you purchased. The Federal EPA regulation is referred to as the “National Rule” and sets a minimum standard for VOC’s. Certain states with more severe ozone restrictions have stricter standards: California, Utah, Delaware, Maryland, etc.). These regulations apply to the entire product stream from manufacture to distribution to the end user (the collision center). The move to HVLP spray equipment, lower VOC products, and waterborne systems are intended to enable our supply chain to be compliant with these regulations.

For shops, the key is to be aware of their local regulations and to be prepared when, not if, an audit occurs.

Respirators: The next area of critical importance, as it directly affects the health of employees, is respiration protection. Respirators are one piece of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required when working with certain chemicals such as welding fumes, paint and body dust. While there is a law regarding PPE in general, OSHA considers respirators so important that they dedicated an entire regulation solely to their proper selection and use. Because inhalation is a serious route of entry for chemicals into the body, respirators are required as a defense against these hazards.

One of the most critical areas of concern with PPE is Isocyanates that are present in many activators and hardeners used in the refinishing process. They can manifest in issues with asthma, skin irritation, inflammation of mucous membranes, and cancer. This has been a strong emphasis in OSHA inspections through their National Emphasis Program (NEP) since 2013.

The best source of information regarding proper PPE, including respirators, is the product’s SDS (See “Right to Know” below). The manufacturer, using knowledge of their product as well as OSHA’s safe exposure levels, instructs end-users on required safety equipment.

Two main types of respirators include air-purifying (APR) and supplied-air (SAR). APR’s filter certain contaminants out of the air, while SAR’s provide clean fresh air from a known source. A motorized belt pack is not supplied-air.

Before a respirator can be used in the workplace, several procedures must be in place. An evaluation of the chemical to determine the proper type of respirator is the first step. Second, each employee must be certified by a medical professional to be healthy enough to wear it. A standard OSHA employee questionnaire will be reviewed, and a limited physical exam or breathing test (PFT) may be needed. Third, once a year, the employee must be trained and fit-tested with his/her model and size of respirator.

With all OSHA regulations, proper documentation is crucial. You must have a record of the training, fit-testing and medical clearance for each employee who wears one. A Written Respiratory Protection Program (WRPP), which spells out your company’s policies and procedures, is the last major requirement.

Key Elements of a “WRPP” should include:

  • Selection and availability of approved respirators
  • Employee training
  • Proper fitting of respirators
  • Periodic monitoring of hazards
  • Inspection, care and maintenance of respirators
  • Engineering and administrative controls
  • Medical assessment of employees
  • Program evaluation


“Right to Know” – This is OSHA’s hazard communication standard. It has to do with understanding and communicating the new “GHS” or Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling of chemicals via Safety Data Sheets (SDS); formerly known as MSDS.

Free video on GHS:

Safety Data Sheets are available from all manufacturers and NCS, as your distributor.

Applicable SDS must be physically available in the collision center for all relevant products.


6H (40 CFR Part 63 Section: HHHHHH)

Under EPA rule 6H, the agency has effectively made the collision repair industry’s paint stripping and spray coating practices the subject of a national effort to address health and environmental threats.

The 6H rule puts in place new equipment, training and reporting requirements for the U.S. collision repair shops that use paint products containing methylene chloride, chromium, lead, manganese, nickel and cadmium. Compliance is required for all collision centers nationwide.

The EPA has provided an equipment checklist for shops that aren’t yet in compliance:

  • Filter technology must be installed and operated on all spray booths.
  • Spray booths must be fully enclosed and ventilated at negative pressure.
  • The spray booth must capture 98 percent of hazardous emissions. Booths that have seals on all doors and other openings and have an automatic pressure balancing system must be ventilated up to 0.05 inches water gauge positive pressure.
  • Spray booths used to coat miscellaneous parts must have a full roof, three complete walls or side curtains, and be ventilated so air is drawn into the booth.
  • Spray coatings must be applied with a high volume, low-pressure spray gun, electrostatic application, or an airless or air-assisted airless spray gun.
  • Paint spray gun cleaning to prevent atomization of hazardous materials to the air is required.

For a copy of the regulation, go to:

A Thought to Consider: Fines for non-compliance can be substantial. More importantly, the health and safety of our people and the environment is critical. Unless your career is focused on compliance issues and the evolving landscape of regulations, none of us can possibly be experts in this field. Therefore, seeking the advice of a professional and a proactive audit of your facility may be time and money well spent.

Take Action:

  • At a minimum, seek to have a working knowledge of the four major regulatory areas describe above so you can at least talk intelligently to a regulations professional so you are able to comprehend the both the actions needed as well as the risks involved.
  • Build any necessary compliance actions into your standard operating process and assign responsibility for recurring actions and processes such as RTN training, respiratory fit tests, 6H Training, etc.


Additional Compliance Auditing and informational resources:

GMG Envirosafe


Safety Regulation Strategies:


Featured Products