Did you know that mixing common cleaning substances ammonia and bleach creates fatal toxic fumes? What about the spilled acidic substances need to be neutralized with a compound like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) before you can dispose of them? Or that if you smell almonds when working with Sodium cyanide, you could be seconds from death?
Without a chemistry degree, it’s unlikely that you’d know these things off the top of your head. Unfortunately, most people who work with hazardous chemicals every day are also in your shoes.
That’s the purpose of SDS information—to keep people in the know about industrial chemicals and help them avoid dangerous accidents.
Read on to learn more about SDS forms, their requirements, and how to use them.
The Purpose of SDS
Scientists aren’t the only ones who work with dangerous substances on a daily basis, though they’re required to keep SDS information handy, too. Industrial workers, janitors and cleaning staff, and many other professions use toxic chemicals to do their jobs.
The purpose of SDS information is to keep laypeople safe when working with these chemicals. It helps to avoid exposure to toxic elements, avoid disasters and accidents, and tells you what to do if an accident does happen.
Is It Called an MSDS or SDS?
Answering the MSDS vs SDS question is simple when you realize that SDS is the new name for MSDS forms. Back in 2012, OSHA released the HCS/HazCom 2012 Final Rule & Appendices. Under these new standards, the word material was dropped from the title and the forms were renamed Safety Data Sheets.
An SDS is almost the same as an MSDS. The major changes had to do mostly with formatting, not content. Even so, businesses only had until 2016 to make sure they complied with the 2012 guideline updates.
If you haven’t gone through your safety data sheets to make sure they’re the current version, now’s the time to do so.
How Many Sections Must the SDS Have?
Per OSHA guidelines, every safety data sheet must have sixteen predetermined sections. These are as follows:
- Identification: names the chemical, supplier info, and recommended uses
- Hazards Identification: tells a chemical’s hazard classification (eg. flammable), shows a warning pictogram, and details the dangers of working with the chemical
- Composition/Information on Ingredients: chemical name, common name(s), and a complete list of ingredients
- First-Aid Measures: how to care for someone who’s been exposed to the chemical by various means
- Fire-Fighting Measures: how to safely put out a fire started by this chemical without making the situation worse
- Accidental Release Measures: the steps to take if any amount of the chemical is spilled, released into the air, or leaked
- Handling and Storage: how to store the chemical safely and precautions to take when using it
- Exposure Controls/Personal Protection: details any personal protective equipment (PPE) users should wear and how to keep the environment safe for workers
- Physical and Chemical Properties: relevant identifying information about the chemical, including appearance, odor, pH, and melting point
- Stability and Reactivity: explains the conditions under which the chemical is stable and how it reacts with other substances
- Toxicological Information: most likely routes of exposure, toxicity, and symptoms of exposure
- Ecological Information: how the chemical affects the environment, not a mandatory section
- Disposal Considerations: the safest ways to get rid of a chemical, not a mandatory section
- Transport Information: how to move a chemical from one place to another, not a mandatory section
- Regulatory Information: a catch-all section for any regulations not listed earlier on the form, not a mandatory section
- Other Information: last revision date of the SDS and changes from previous versions
If the SDS runs onto more than one page, make sure to print and include the entire document.
How to Use a Safety Data Sheet
Even though it contains some complex information, you don’t have to be a chemist to use an SDS correctly. Safety data sheets are made to be straightforward and easy to scan.
Before you work with a new chemical, spend some time reading through the sheet. You may want to highlight important areas and keep the sheet in a waterproof page protector.
Perhaps the more important question isn’t how to use a safety data sheet, but when. The answer? Any time you’re working with a chemical, no matter how familiar you are with it.
No matter how well you think you have an SDS memorized, you should always keep a copy within reach while working with hazardous chemicals. If an accident was to occur, it would be easy to panic and respond inappropriately in the moment. Even a few minutes of delays or a single misstep could be disastrous for the health and safety of everyone in the area.
Make sure that everyone who works with (or even near) hazardous chemicals knows exactly where to find them and how to use them.
Where to Get SDS Documents for Your Office
Thankfully, you don’t have to research and write out safety data sheets on your own. There are plenty of places online, like this MSDS database, where you can download ready-made SDS forms to put in your office. Make sure the sheets you choose are compliant with the latest OSHA standards before posting them.
Do You Have All the Necessary SDS Information Displayed?
The purpose of SDS information is to keep you and your employees safe when working with hazardous materials. If you want to avoid any accidents, though, it’s crucial to have all the relevant safety data sheets posted or easily accessible.
There’s no better time than the present to make sure your workplace’s collection of SDS info is ready to go when you need it most. Check OSHA’s website for more information and to make sure you comply with their standards.
Looking for more business advice like this? If so, make sure to check out the other articles on our site.