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Safety Data Sheet (SDS) Status for Globally Harmonized System (GHS) Compliance

by Wes Maertz, Certified Safety Professional, W.W. Grainger, Inc.

SDSs are an important component of the GHS and provide comprehensive information about a specific substance or mixture used in chemical management. They are used as a source of information about hazards, including environmental hazards, and to obtain advice on safety precautions. The full compliance date of June 1, 2016 set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is fast approaching. Below are a couple questions and answers about the status of SDSs.

Where is the industry at now in GHS compliance and SDSs?

Currently the awareness is high for those complying with the GHS compliance timeline established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers know the full compliance date of 6/1/2016 is quickly approaching. OSHA has put forth a strong effort in awareness and education to the workforce to make employers fully aware of the compliance dates and what is required. One of the biggest challenges, however, is proving to be updating and maintaining Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) libraries to current format.

The challenge of building current SDS libraries starts with the hazard chemical manufacturers or authors of the SDSs. Many did not meet the deadline of 6/1/2015 to create and make available the newly formatted SDSs for downstream users. In fact, a recent survey* of over 200 chemical manufacturers found:

  • 55% currently were not authoring SDS sheets in new format
  • 28% were not yet authoring at all but had plans to convert
  • 17% did not respond

What this indicates is that current SDSs are just not available and this is creating a domino effect for all that use the products downstream from the manufacturer.

Since so many hazardous chemicals will not have current SDSs available how is OSHA enforcing this part of the rule?

In situations where manufacturers of hazardous chemicals that do not require additional product (raw materials) to produce the chemical OSHA will cite these manufacturers for not having updated SDSs for these products. For chemicals OSHA considers mixtures that require additional product to produce, OSHA will check to see if the manufacturer made “reasonable diligence and good faith efforts” to comply in order to determine if a citation should be made. This means they will look for evidence of efforts to:

  • Obtain classification information and SDSs from upstream suppliers
  • Find hazard information from alternate sources, such as chemical registries
  • Classify the data themselves

For each shipped hazardous chemical that is not compliant, OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) will look to see if manufacturers have:

  • Documented a process for gathering updated classification information from upstream suppliers
  • Documented efforts to obtain the information from alternate sources
  • Written, dated accounts of communication with upstream suppliers to try to obtain updated information, as well as to distributors to inform them of why compliance has not been possible
  • Developed a course of action and timeline of making the necessary updates once information becomes available

OSHA will evaluate all of these factors, but may consider any combination of them acceptable before issuing any citation. Manufacturers must have a convincing and fully documented reason for being behind schedule and have a path toward compliance outlined. The key is showing OSHA documentation of the efforts taken to comply.

As for distributors and end-users, they are also expected to make an effort to obtain SDSs from upstream suppliers if they are not received at the time of the first shipment. However, OSHA says that if these requests to manufacturers and/or distributors prove unsuccessful, end-users should document all communication efforts that were made. OSHA will then determine on a case by case basis to issue a citation. If no documentation can be presented to the compliance officer this most likely will result in a citation after 6/1/2016.

*MSDSonline

©2016 W.W. Grainger, Inc.