March 31, 2023
Exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace can’t be taken lightly. In the least serious cases, it can lead to mild irritation or discomfort. In the most severe situations, it can cause long-term health problems, disabilities, and even fatalities.
It’s crucial for employers to implement strict safety protocols and educate their workers on the risks and proper handling of hazardous substances. Without these precautions, people’s lives (and your company) could be at stake.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are meant to mitigate some of these risks. Not only do they help keep your employees safe, but they also help keep your company safe from OSHA citations.
According to OSHA’s website, SDSs are:
Safety data sheets (SDS) are detailed information bulletins prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a chemical that describes the physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control measures.
In this blog post, we’ll walk you through a simple but effective process on how to develop and maintain Safety Data Sheets. By taking care of your SDS process now, you’ll be better equipped to handle every other part of your job; entrusting that all invested parties are being kept safe.
What is OSHA’s Hazardous Communication Standard?
OSHA’s Hazardous Communication Standard (also known as HazCom or HCS) was established to ensure that workers are informed about any hazardous chemicals they may encounter in the workplace.
The goal is to provide a comprehensive approach to hazardous chemical documentation and communication. This allows employees to understand the potential risks of working around such chemicals.
It also means your employees are given the necessary information to protect themselves. The steps to do so are clearly laid out for them and easy to follow.
The HazCom Standard requires employers to develop a written hazard communication program. This program needs to include a list of hazardous chemicals in your workplace, labeling requirements, and the safety data sheets (SDSs) for each chemical.
Your SDSs must provide information on:
- The chemical’s physical and chemical properties
- Health effects and first aid measures
- Precautions for safe handling and use
The SDSs must be readily accessible to all employees who may come into contact with the chemicals.
Before you start planning your SDS process, be sure you familiarize yourself with the HazCom Standard.
How to Develop and Maintain Safety Data Sheets
Communication is key across all mediums for SDSs, and organizations should always be looking for ways to improve their communication around hazardous chemicals.
Here’s how you can develop and maintain your SDSs to meet these standards:
1. Identify Hazardous Chemicals
Understanding which hazardous chemicals you’ll possibly encounter and having documentation for them is key. OSHA has a list of hazardous chemicals that are your responsibility, make sure you understand the process for each chemical you encounter by HazCom Standards.
HCS requires employers to maintain a master list of chemicals on site, so make sure your index is always kept up to date.
Also, be sure you’re using the CAS No. (Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Numbers) for each chemical to maintain a universal standard of communication for each chemical.
2. Index and Organize Chemical Information
The information on each chemical (such as physical and chemical properties, health hazards, and safety precautions) needs to be well indexed and organized.
If you don’t have this information, you can get it from the chemical manufacturer, your supplier, or from publicly available sources such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the OSHA website.
Develop a process for tracking the status of SDSs, such as updating them when new orders come in, or anytime a chemical is moved to a new location.
Organize the information in a way that is easy to understand and use, such as grouping chemicals with similar properties or hazards.
3. Adhere to a Labeling Standard
HCS requires employers to properly label hazardous chemicals. As an employer, it’s part of your responsibility to ensure that everyone adheres to the labeling system you’ve put in place.
The labeling standard should follow the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, which provides a consistent and standardized approach to communicating chemical hazards.
Use software or training events for accountability and consistency around labeling. All labels should include the name of the chemical, the appropriate hazard warnings, and the name and contact information of the manufacturer or supplier.
4. Provide Regular Training
Regular training around safety and the HazCom Standard are also required by HCS. Training should be provided for new and current employees to keep everyone up to date, as well as to make sure all your processes are up to standard.
This training should also cover processes around First-Aid and Accidental Release incidents.
Atlantic Training offers several comprehensive training courses, ranging from brief video courses to in-depth training series. Here are a few we recommend you start with:
For an in-depth overview of all HazCom Standards, this video on-demand is essential for employers.
With a runtime of 20 minutes, this course covers everything you need to know about the Hazard Communication Program, including why it’s important and how to implement it in the workplace.
You’ll learn about hazard classifications, SDSs, labeling requirements, and the 9 pictograms and their meanings. Additionally, you’ll gain an understanding of what makes a chemical a health hazard, information and training requirements, and control measures.
By the end of the course, you’ll have a thorough understanding of the HCS, as well as the tools and resources needed to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
With a runtime of 5 minutes, this course provides a clear overview of SDSs. This will include SDS composition, the information contained in each section, and how they differ from Material Safety Data Sheets.
You’ll also learn about the Globally Harmonized System, hazard communication requirements, and how to effectively handle and store hazardous materials. Additionally, the course covers important technical information about hazardous materials, such as the types of materials and the hazards associated with them.
This course is essential for understanding the different types of SDS within the Globally Harmonized System.
Construction sites can be dangerous environments at the best of times. Just like you wouldn’t neglect wearing hard hats, you can’t neglect the proper handling of hazardous chemicals.
If you work in the construction industry, understanding how to safely handle hazardous materials is essential to the health and safety of everyone on site.
This course covers everything you need to know about Safety Data Sheets within a construction environment, including technical information about HAZMATs and how to handle and store hazardous materials.
By the end of this 15-minute training program, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of SDSs for construction sites and be better equipped to work safely in these environments.
5. Schedule Regular SDS Reviews
Lastly, you need to make sure that your SDS and the processes surrounding them are regularly reviewed. This helps ensure that each part of the process is up to current standards and remains relevant to everyone involved in working with these chemicals.
Regular reviews will also help catch gaps in your processes, which is essential for maintaining the safety of everyone who is working around hazardous chemicals.
Aim to do quarterly audits and reviews of your SDS. Have outside eyes on your processes at least a couple times a year. Having outside eyes examine your SDS and the process you’ve built around them will help overcome gaps in knowledge or blind spots in how your process works.
In conclusion, SDSs contain vital information about hazardous chemicals that can protect employees from potential health hazards. It is important to identify hazardous chemicals, index and organize chemical information, adhere to labeling standards, provide regular training, and schedule regular SDS reviews.
All in all, developing and maintaining your SDSs can be an overwhelming process. However, with the proper knowledge, education, and preparation, you’ll soon be able to run your SDS processes automatically. With this automation, everyone’s safety is ensured.
As well as prioritizing everyone’s safety, your SDS need to be maintained in order to avoid OSHA penalties. Failure to comply with HazCom Standards can result in a “willful” violation, and result in fines up to $156,259 per violation.
With the help of resources like Atlantic Training’s video courses, you can effectively train employees on how to safely work with hazardous materials and ensure compliance with regulations. By prioritizing the development and maintenance of SDSs, you’ll easily create a safer work environment and protect the health of every employee.
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