8 Principles OSHA Advises You Know About SDS

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are key to keeping a workplace safe. They offer important details about dangerous chemicals used across many industries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets rules to make sure both employers and employees understand and use SDS properly, ensuring a safe work environment. 

No matter your industry, if you work with potentially harmful materials, it’s important to understand SDS. In this blog, we’ll discuss the eight main principles of SDS as advised by OSHA, to help you stay safe and follow safety rules.

But first, let us briefly discuss OSHA. 

What is OSHA?

hazardous substances red sign against a yellow background

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a regulatory body under the United States Department of Labor. Established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA’s mission is to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees.

This is accomplished by setting and enforcing standards, as well as, providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers, along with some public sector employers and workers in all 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority.

Now, let us take a closer look at SDS sheets for better understanding. 

What Does “SDS” Stand For?

5 different safety data sheets warning signs against blue sky background

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are an essential component of hazard communication in the workplace. These documents provide crucial information about potential hazards, safe handling, and emergency procedures for hazardous chemicals. 

OSHA emphasizes the importance of SDS compliance to protect workers and ensure a safe working environment. Here is a breakdown of the SDS section format: 

SDS 16 Section Format

Hazardous Waste Material

SDS follows a 16-section format that is fairly easy to read. They are transcribed by specific manufacturers which gives SDS more informative and detailed information within each specific section. Sections 1 through 11 are mandatory, while sections 12 through 15 are considered “non-mandatory” due to the fact OSHA will not enforce the contents, but they are important and required to be stated within the SDS because of the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). To give some general information, here is a breakdown of what each section pertains to: 

  • Section 1: Identification 
    • This section identifies the chemical on the SDS as well as the recommended uses. It also provides the essential contact information of the supplier. 
  • Section 2: Hazard(s) Identification
    • This section identifies the hazards of the chemical presented on the SDS and the appropriate warning information associated with those hazards. 
  • Section 3: Composition/Information on Ingredients 
    • This section identifies the ingredient(s) contained in the product indicated on the SDS, including impurities and stabilizing additives. This section includes information on substances, mixtures, and all chemicals where a trade secret is claimed.
  • Section 4: First Aid Measures 
    • This section describes the initial care that should be given by untrained responders to an individual who has been exposed to the chemical.
  • Section 5: Fire-Fighting Measures
    • This section provides recommendations for fighting a fire caused by the chemical.
  • Section 6: Accidental Release Measures 
    • This section provides recommendations on the appropriate response to spills, leaks, or releases, including containment and cleanup practices to prevent or minimize exposure to people, properties, or the environment.
  • Section 7: Handling and Storage 
    • This section provides guidance on the safe handling practices and conditions for safe storage of chemicals. 
  • Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
    • This section indicates the exposure limits, engineering controls, and personal protective measures that can be used to minimize worker exposure.
  • Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties 
    • This section identifies physical and chemical properties associated with the substance or mixture.
  • Section 10: Stability and Reactivity
    • This section describes the reactivity hazards of the chemical and the chemical stability information.
  • Section 11: Toxicological Information 
    • This section identifies toxicological and health effects information or indicates that such data are not available. 
  • Section 12: Ecological Information (non-mandatory)
    • This section provides information to evaluate the environmental impact of the chemical(s) if it were released into the environment. 
  • Section 13: Disposal Considerations (non-mandatory)
    • This section guides proper disposal practices, recycling or reclamation of the chemical(s) or its container, and safe handling practices. 
  • Section 14: Transport Information (non-mandatory)
    • This section provides guidance on classification information for shipping and transporting hazardous chemical(s) by road, air, rail, or sea.
  • Section 15: Regulatory information (non-mandatory)
    • This section identifies the safety, health, and environmental regulations specific to the product that is not indicated anywhere else on the SDS.
  • Section 16: Other Information 
    • This section indicates when the SDS was prepared or when the last known revision was made. 

To learn more about your specific industry SDS, contact your employer. 

8 Things to Know if You Are Working with SDS Materials

OSHA advises employers in the hazardous waste industry to thoroughly understand SDS and implement its safety precautions. To understand more about these advisories, here is a general breakdown of what OSHA wants you to know: 

1. Availability and Accessibility

OSHA mandates that SDSs be readily accessible to all employees who may come into contact with hazardous chemicals. Employers must ensure that SDSs are available in the workplace and easily retrievable for reference. This includes maintaining both electronic and physical copies in appropriate locations. Additionally, OSHA advises to never throw out the SDSs that come in with chemical shipments unless the appropriate information has been transferred electronically. 

2. Complete and Accurate Information

SDSs must contain comprehensive and up-to-date information about hazardous substances. OSHA expects SDSs to provide details such as chemical composition, physical and chemical properties, health hazards, safe handling procedures, emergency response measures, and proper disposal methods. 

Employers must ensure that SDSs are accurate, reflect the current status of chemicals used in the workplace, and are available in the appropriate languages. 

3. Hazard Communication and Training

Employers have a responsibility to educate employees about the hazards associated with the chemicals they work with. OSHA emphasizes the importance of hazard communication programs and employee training on SDS interpretation and understanding. This training should cover how to locate and interpret information on SDSs, recognize hazards, and take appropriate safety precautions.

4. Supplier Labeling and Updates

OSHA requires suppliers to provide SDSs to downstream users, including employers, upon initial shipment and with subsequent updates. Employers should review SDSs received from suppliers and ensure that they are complete, accurate, and readily available to employees. It is crucial to communicate any changes in hazard information to employees and update SDSs accordingly.

5. Language and Accessibility Considerations

OSHA recognizes the importance of ensuring that SDSs are accessible and understandable to all employees, including those with limited English proficiency. Employers must provide SDSs in languages commonly understood by their workforce. Additionally, if a significant portion of the workforce needs to be literate, alternative means of communication and training should be implemented to ensure comprehension of SDS information.

6. Electronic SDS Management

OSHA permits electronic storage and access of SDSs, provided certain conditions are met. Employers opting for electronic systems must ensure that employees have the necessary equipment and access to retrieve SDSs when needed. They should also establish backup measures to prevent the loss of critical information.

7. SDS Retention

The standard requires all employee exposure records to be maintained for at least 30 years. Employers may discard a material safety data sheet for a mixture if the new data sheet includes the same hazardous chemicals as the original formulation. If the formulation is different then the employer must maintain both data sheets for at least 30 years. This requirement ensures that historical information is available for reference, even after chemicals are no longer in use.

8. Reviewing and Updating SDSs

Employers should regularly review and update SDSs to reflect changes in hazardous chemicals, associated risks, or regulatory requirements. This includes updating SDSs when new information becomes available or when a chemical is used in a manner that may create different hazards.

Waste & Material Management

Identifying if your waste is hazardous or non-hazardous should be one of your initial steps. With this, AllSource Environmental can be of great assistance. In general, waste that has characteristics of toxicity, corrosivity, reactivity, or ignitability is considered hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of in the same manner as non-hazardous trash. Find out more about the waste types we handle here. Additionally, we can provide a tailored waste material management solution that satisfies your requirements. Contact Allsource Environmental today for more waste management information!