EHS QuickTakes: What Is An SDS?
Posted on July 12, 2022 | in EHS
A safety data sheet, or SDS, is a document that is required to accompany a hazardous chemical. It provides detailed information on the safe handling, use, storage and disposal of said chemical. SDSs are required to be created by the chemical manufacturer, distributor or importer, and provided to downstream users.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, Health Canada’s WHMIS, and many other hazard communication standards around the world require employers to provide workers with immediate access to SDSs for the chemicals they come into contact with, and ensure they receive training on how to read and understand them.
In the past, the predominant means of providing safety data sheet access to employees was through printed copies in three-ring binders, but increasingly, employers are choosing more convenient, electronic solutions, like online SDS management software and mobile apps.
Another change in direction relates not to the management of the documents, but to the documents themselves.
For many decades in the United States, SDSs were called material safety data sheets, or MSDSs.
In 2012, OSHA aligned its Hazard Communication Standard with GHS, a system designed by the United Nations to streamline the world’s hazard communication standards into one coherent system.
Under GHS, SDSs follow a standardized 16-section format, arranged in a strict order.
For GHS-adopting countries and agencies, one of the biggest changes, and compliance challenges, relates to the transition from older MSDS formats to the new GHS-styled SDSs.
With adoption of GHS completed in the US in 2016, OSHA inspectors now expect to see up-to-date and compliant SDS inventories, and if not, they expect to see that an employer has made a “good faith” effort to obtain SDSs for any MSDSs that remain in their inventory. For other countries and agencies, inspectors may take an even stricter stance and expect to see SDSs without exception.
Going forward, when it comes to chemicals, safety data sheets will continue to be the backbone of employee safety and a key element of HazCom compliance.