If your company handles, transfers, manufactures or packages hazardous materials, you’re familiar with Material Safety Data Sheets. These are informative sheets of information about every hazardous material employees may come in contact with while at work.

“In accordance with paragraph (g) of HCS 2012 – and previously, HCS 1994 – chemical manufacturers and importers are required to conduct the hazard classification of the chemical product and use that information to produce both the primary container label and the safety data sheet (SDS), formerly material safety data sheet (MSDS),” says Dr. Edgar Geddie, of the N.C. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Division.

“Please note that any employer who repackages a chemical for sale to other employers is viewed as a chemical manufacturer and must comply with these same requirements,” Geddie adds.

The information contained in the SDS is largely the same as the MSDS, except now the SDS is required to be presented in a consistent user-friendly, 16-section format. The 16 sections that must be completed with adequate information are:

  1. Identification
  2. Hazard identification
  3. Composition/ingredients
  4. First-aid measures
  5. Accidental release measures
  6. Fire-fighting measures
  7. Handling storage
  8. Exposure controls
  9. Physical and chemical properties
  10. Stability and reactivity
  11. Toxicological information
  12. Ecological information
  13. Disposal considerations
  14. Transport information
  15. Regulatory information
  16. Other

These 16 pieces of information will always appear in this order on GHS SDS to be easily accessible to those needing quick information. For instance, in the case of a fire, firefighters will know to scan the SDS’s to #5, where they can always find pertinent information about fire-fighting measures, specific about the materials in that location. Or if an employee accidentally gets exposed to a hazardous material, there’s no need to read the entire SDS, scan to #4 and #6 for quick information that could save a life.

In most cases, a manufacturer will provide an SDS for any hazardous product and is given to the consumer. If an SDS is not provided by a manufacturer, an SDS may have to be produced for substances and mixtures which meet the harmonized criteria for physical, health, or environmental hazards under the GHS and for all mixtures which contain ingredients that meet the criteria for carcinogenic, toxic to reproduction or specific target organ toxicity in concentrations exceeding the cut-off limits for SDS specified by the criteria for mixtures.

Some employers may also requires SDSs for mixtures not meeting the criteria for classification but containing hazardous ingredients in certain concentrations.

If a material does not have an SDS, the employer or designated person should contact the manufacturer to obtain one.

SDSs should be in a readily accessible location to all employees. For some businesses, this may mean a variety of locations in a binder or online. Stop-Painting.com has a variety of products to help designate your SDS information for easy access.

Having a digital back-up copy of SDSs for rapid access in the case of a power outage or other emergency is recommended. Furthermore, employers may want to designate a person responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDS, or hire an outside consultant to make sure all regulations are adhered to. OSHA can offer training materials to help you get the best use out of SDSs and assure you will pass an OSHA inspection.

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In addition to interviewing Dr. Geddie for the information in this post, other information for this post came from www.osha.gov and this document from the United Nations offering guidance on preparing SDSs.