End-users of hazardous chemicals in the United States are required to have the new 16-section Safety Data Sheets (SDS) readily available to their employees. The United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) includes multiple requirements for manufacturers, distributors and end-users to be compliant with the new system as of June 1, 2016. Specifically, end-users should provide their employees with adequate GHS training on SDS and labelling to improve the overall safety of their workplace.
What are the responsibilities of the employer (end-user)?
Employers shall maintain any SDS received with incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals, and ensure that they are readily accessible during each work shift to employees when they are in their work areas. Employers may designate an employee to be responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDS. 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(3)(ii)
SDS must be readily accessible to the employees. This could be achieved in various ways, however the best and simplest practice is a binder placed in the necessary work areas containing all of the current hard copy SDS. As an alternative, the SDS could be stored on a computer if the employees are able to easily access the information without having to leave their work area and in the case of a power outage, there must be a back- up available. SDS must be in English but an employer may also maintain sheets in other languages if necessary 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(3)(ii)
Where do the new Safety Data Sheets come from?
Chemical manufacturers and importers shall obtain or develop SDS for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Employers shall have a safety data sheet in the workplace for each hazardous chemical which they use. 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(1)
The hazardous chemical arrived without a new SDS, now what?
The chemical should not be used without an Safety Data Sheet. To ensure the most accurate and up-to- date information on the hazardous chemical, the SDS should be obtained directly from the manufacturer or distributor. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer or distributor to develop and distribute the SDS as well as update SDS within 6 months of becoming aware of any new pertinent information.
If the employer is unable to obtain the SDS from the manufacturer or distributor, OSHA should be contacted immediately to assist in obtaining the SDS from the manufacturer or distributor. Alternatively, an employer may utilize the OSHA Occupational Chemical database . Employers who do not produce or import chemicals need only focus on those parts of this rule that deal with establishing a workplace program and communicating information to their workers. 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(1)
What chemicals are excluded from the Safety Data Sheet requirements?
SDS are not required for non–hazardous chemicals. In fact, OSHA recommends not keeping SDS for non-hazardous chemicals as it may be confusing to those at risk of possible exposure. Also, household consumer products (Ex. Windex® or Wite-out®) do not require SDS when the products are used in the workplace in the same manner that a consumer would use them. This exemption in OSHA’s regulation is based on how the product is used in the workplace. If employees are required to work with a hazardous chemical with a duration and frequency of exposure greater than what a normal consumer would experience, the employees would have the right to know about the properties of those hazardous chemicals, thus requiring an SDS for this household consumer product.