Did you know the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires certain companies to maintain safety data sheets around sensitive or potentially dangerous materials? Read on to find out how to recognize these sheets and how CTEH can keep your business in compliance.

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are required for companies which manufacture, distribute, or import chemicals. The sheets are intended to communicate the hazards or potential hazards of chemical products. The sheets detail everything from chemical composition to first aid measures to known hazardous qualities. Also, SDS violations are the second-most common OSHA citation as of 2019

“A general concern is if an employee gets a chemical on their skin and the SDS isn’t readily available, it can delay proper treatment for the employee,” said Paul Hart, CTEH’s director of health and safety services. “This potentially makes the effects of the incident worse.”

How to recognize an SDS

Since 2015, OSHA has required new SDSs to be in a uniform format. They include information on the properties of each chemical, its potential hazards, protective measures, and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical. An SDS is arranged in a 16-section format.

Sections 1 through 8 contain general information about the chemical, identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices, and emergency control measures (e.g., fire fighting). Sections 9 through 11 and 16 contain technical and scientific information like physical and chemical properties. Finally, Sections 12 through 15 must be contained to be consistent with the UN’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), but OSHA does not enforce these sections.

What to look for

Each section of an SDS should be studied thoroughly before safe handling can commence. For example, Section 8 (Exposure Controls/Personal Protection) indicates safe exposure limits, engineering controls, and personal protective measures that can reduce worker exposure. If a dangerous chemical is released, Section 6 details how to handle response to the spill. Or if a chemical causes a fire, Section 5 details how to safely combat the fire.

What employers are responsible for

According to OSHA regulations, employers must make sure SDSs are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in the workplace. This can be done via well-labeled binders or public computer stations, for example. Employees must have access to the SDSs without needing to leave their work area, and back-ups must be provided in case of a power outage or other emergency.

How CTEH can help

CTEH can develop SDSs for your company, and we can provide other SDS-related services.

“We audit compliance with OSHA requirements for maintaining a chemical inventory list and SDSs for each hazardous chemical in the workplace,” Hart said, “And we can help companies correct any SDS compliance concerns and improve the safety of their workplace.”

For more information about workplace safety, industrial hygiene, and keeping your workplace up-to-date with OSHA regulations, visit CTEH.comA detailed list of all information contained within SDSs is available here.