These dangers prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require every company to create a safety data sheet or SDS. It provides information on how to handle potentially hazardous chemicals and situations.
Making sure your employees have access to this information and use it properly is the most important thing. Read on for 7 tips for proper safety data sheet management.
1: Follow the OSHA Communication Standard
OSHA's job is to keep employees safe from all potential hazards. That's why they created the hazard communication standard.
The point of the standard is to classify all potential hazards and make sure employees know how to handle them. Following it keeps your employees safe while also shielding your business from an expensive legal battle.
The standards differ for each industry. For example, OSHA has stricter regulations for laboratories and other places that use potentially hazardous chemicals every day.
No matter what type of business you have, the standards help you determine how to ensure your employees stay safe around potentially hazardous chemicals and know how to handle other dangerous situations.
The best way to ensure that you follow the OSHA communication standard is to know it well and use it when creating a safety data sheet and other safety measures. Check here for more on the OSHA hazard communication standard and what it requires.
2: Know How, Where, and When to Share Information
To make sure that all employees have access to safety data sheets, OSHA also has guidelines in place for how to share and display them.
First and foremost, there must be a safety data sheet on display in every facility the company owns.
There aren't specific guidelines on how to organize safety data sheets. The most common is to place them in a binder and/or online database.
If you store your files online, you have to ensure that they're accessible to every employee. Don't use password protection or login info. Also, be sure to create a backup copy.
3: Format Correctly
The type of document that used to be required to let employees know about potential hazards was known as an MSDS. This was the standard for years, but times have changed since then.
The OSHA now recommends an SDS because it's easier to read and implement. You're required to include up to 16 sections. Some are mandatory, and some are only necessary for certain organizations.
The mandatory sections include:
- hazard identification
- composition and information on ingredients
- first-aid measures
- firefighting measures
- accidental release measures
- handling and storage
- exposure controls and personal protection
- physical and chemical properties
- stability and reactivity
- toxicological information
- other information
The non-mandatory sections include:
- ecological information
- disposal considerations
- transport information
- regulatory information
Check here for an example of proper formatting.
4: Label Potentially Toxic Materials
Adding the proper labels for products that could become hazardous is essential. Make sure they're placed somewhere that's easy to read and that no one tampers with them in any way.
While there's a long list of hazardous chemicals you must label, not everything counts as a potential hazard. For more information, find out which materials are exempt from the requirements.
5: Train and Inform Your Employees
Providing safety data sheets and protective equipment to all employees is only the first step. You also have to make sure they know how to use these tools to keep themselves safe.
It's important to let employees know what the business' safety measures are. Hold regular meetings to update them about the current policies and any changes. Be sure to enact regular testing and training to make sure they understand all the rules.
New hazards can pop up at any time, so you have to keep your employees consistently up-to-date on safety protocols. Hiring an effective point person for management is one way to ensure this gets done.
6: Consider Shipping and Receiving
Don't forget that a safety data sheet isn't only required for the hazardous materials used at your own facilities. They're also necessary for anything you receive or send out.
Not every material you receive comes with a safety data sheet. Some companies fail to provide one, but it's management's responsibility to get one and distribute it to your employees.
You also must include a safety data sheet in everything you sell or ship from your facilities.
7: Use Your Safety Data Sheet to Create a Hazard Communications Program
Having safety measures in place isn't very useful if you don't implement them. You have to make a plan to let every employee know about potential risks and what to do about them.
OSHA recommends that a hazard communications program include steps like labels for hazardous products and materials, employee training, and, of course, safety data sheets. A list of hazardous chemicals they may come into contact with is another important component.
Make these steps a priority, and you'll be creating an effective hazard communications program in no time.
What to Do With Your Safety Data Sheets
A safety data sheet is just the first step in creating a hazard communications program. It provides the necessary information to prevent dangers like chemical spills or burns.
Safety data sheets must meet OSHA communication standards, be displayed where employees in every location can see them, identify every potential hazard, and be formatted correctly.
Your work isn't done once you've produced these required documents. You should also enact other safety measures like proper labeling and regular training and updates. It's all part of a proper hazard communications program that'll keep everyone safe.
While there are no regulations about how to store safety data sheets, it's best to keep them in a safe place like a binder or electronic database.