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Safety Data Sheets (SDS) ensure pertinent chemical information including hazards, precautions, properties, and usage/storage instructions are clearly communicated to end users. They are often overlooked because the large amount of information included can be difficult to decipher. With the mass amount of information included, SDSs can be intimidating and therefore ignored. However, disregarding the SDS could be a deadly mistake!

OSHA adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in 2012 which was fully put into effect on June 1, 2016. The GHS is a set of rules that businesses must follow regarding the classification of health, physical, and environmental hazards present in chemicals. It also specifies required information on labels of hazardous chemicals and the format of Safety Data Sheets (SDS).2 GHS regulations require an SDS to have 16 separate sections each containing specific sets of information.

OSHA estimated that the new GHS rules will result in the prevention of at least 43 deaths and 585 occupationally related injuries and illnesses every year.2 The GHS system saves American businesses more than $475 million in productivity improvements. Furthermore, standardized rules make training workers on safety and how to read a label and SDS much simpler. Adopting the GHS standard harmonizes United States hazard communication rules with countries worldwide, reducing trade barriers.3

Clearly, Safety Data Sheets are extremely important in ensuring that companies properly communicate potential physical, environmental, and health hazards. However, while the uniformity and additional information included in SDSs is great, the bottom line is that they can still be challenging to comprehend. Educating workers on how to interpret an SDS is essential in protecting them from dangerous toxins. Over the next several weeks, stay connected with Chemtek’s blog series which will decode each section of an SDS. The goal is to contribute to improving safety within the chemical industry by sharing our knowledge. Our continued pursuit of establishing best industry practices, while emphasizing environmental consciousness and worker safety, is the cornerstone of our company!

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1 From MSDS to SDS- GHS Brings Big Changes to Safety Data Sheets in HazCom 2012. MSDS Online. https://www.msdsonline.com/2012/08/20/from-msds-to-sds-ghs-brings-big-changes-to-safety-data-sheets-in-hazcom-2012/. Published August 20, 2012. Accessed August 7, 2019.

2 HazCom and GHS FAQs. J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. https://www.jjkeller.com/learn/hazard-communication-hazcom-ghs-faqs. Publishing date Not Available. Accessed August 7, 2019.

3 OSHA Fact Sheet: Hazard Communication Standard Final Rule. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/HCSFactsheet.html. Publishing date Not Available. Accessed August 7, 2019.