Manufacturers have them in binders scattered throughout their facilities. No products that use any sort of chemical substance (such as C.I.Agent® Polymers) are shipped without one. Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace are required to make them accessible to employees. Sometimes the information they provide is wrong, outdated, incomplete, or hard to find, which causes stress and headaches. But what’s the big deal about Material Safety Data Sheets anyway? Why should we care about them?
Well, we don’t have to for much longer … sort of. Why? Because they’ll soon be relics of history. It’s time to bid farewell to the performance-based, inconsistent MSDSs of the past, and welcome in the new standard in Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has required for many years that Material Safety Data Sheets be available for employees of chemical manufacturers, distributors or importers who handle potentially harmful substances, under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The current standard, HazCom 1994, indicates what information should be included on the sheet, but doesn’t require a specific format or section order. This will all change in June 2015, because the HCS will require all SDSs to be formatted the same way, and include 16 sections, to conform with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The following is a helpful breakdown of the section numbers, headings and associated information of the new and improved SDSs:
Section 1: IDENTIFICATION
Section 1 includes the product or chemical name (Note: according to the HCS, a chemical is defined as any substance or mixture of substances), as well as the manufacturer or distributor’s name and contact info (address, general phone number, emergency phone number). The section also includes a description of what it does, and recommendations and restrictions for use.
Section 2: HAZARD(S) IDENTIFICATION
This section informs of any hazards, the class of the hazard and appropriate warnings associated with the chemical. It should also include details required for label elements, such as pictograms and precautionary statements.
Section 3: COMPOSITION/INFORMATION ON INGREDIENTS
This section includes information on the ingredients of the chemical compounds, such as substances and mixtures. It also lists the specific chemical identity and/or exact percentage of composition that has been withheld where a trade secret is claimed.
Section 4: FIRST-AID MEASURES
This provides instructions on initial care that should be given to an individual exposed to the chemical.
Section 5: FIRE-FIGHTING MEASURES
Not every chemical is flammable, but this section is useful for giving recommendations for how to extinguish a fire that this particular chemical may have caused.
Section 6: ACCIDENTAL RELEASE MEASURES
Leaks happen, unfortunately. This section details appropriate responses to spills, leaks or releases, and containment and cleanup measures to prevent or minimize exposure to people, properties or the environment.
Section 7: HANDLING AND STORAGE
Section 7 offers guidance on how to safely handle and store the chemicals.
Section 8: EXPOSURE CONTROLS/PERSONAL PROTECTION
Sometimes accidents are unavoidable, and people are exposed to chemicals despite their best efforts. This section explains exposure limits, engineering controls, and personal protective measures that can be implemented to minimize worker exposure.
Section 9: PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL PROPERTIES
It’s important to be aware of the physical and chemical properties associated with the substance or mixture. Some common properties included are appearance, odor, relative density, melting point/freezing point, flammability, and more. Only properties that are relevant to the chemical will be included in this section, though a note should be made on the SDS for why a chemical property isn’t listed.
Section 10: STABILITY AND REACTIVITY
In this section, the chemical’s reactivity hazards and stability information are described. Section 10 can be broken down into 3 sub-sections: reactivity, chemical stability and other indications of the possibility of hazardous reactions.
Section 11: TOXICOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The section describes toxicological and health effects caused by the chemical. Information that isn’t available will be indicated. Common information may include likely routes of exposure, the numerical measures of toxicity, symptoms common with exposure, and more.
Section 12: ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION (non-mandatory)
Though not required on all SDSs, this section offers information evaluating the impact of the chemical if released to the environment. This can include information obtained from test data and studies, and is not applicable for all chemicals.
Section 13: DISPOSAL CONSIDERATIONS (non-mandatory)
Section 13 advises on proper methods for disposal, recycling or reclamation of the chemical or its container, and safe handling practices. (Note: To minimize exposure, this section should also refer back to Section 8 of the SDS.)
Section 14: TRANSPORT INFORMATION (non-mandatory)
This section provides the classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous chemicals by road, air, rail or sea.
Section 15: REGULATORY INFORMATION (non-mandatory)
This section outlines any safety, health, and environmental regulations specific for the product that is not included in any other section on the SDS.
Section 16: OTHER INFORMATION
Unlike MSDSs, the new SDSs include a specific section for denoting the date it was originally prepared or when the last known revision was made. It can also point out where specific changes were made in regards to previous versions. Other useful information can also be included here.
Just so you know, Sections 12 – 15 must be included on a SDS to be consistent with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. However, OSHA will not enforce content in these sections, only the headers, because info in these sections fall within other agencies’ jurisdictions.
So, that’s the breakdown of the new and improved Safety Data Sheets. Expect to see them in this format more and more over the next year, as the MSDSs of the industrial past are slowly phased out. All in all, the move to a standard format is a positive one, and should increase efficiency and safety when working with hazardous chemicals. For more information about these changes and how they might affect you, visit https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/hazcom-faq.html. We’ll probably write a few more posts concerning implementing the new standard SDSs as the deadline approaches.
Happy New Year!