Data sheets for chemicals provide vital information that helps people employed in the process flow to better understand associated hazards and take suitable precautions. It is the right of employees and people in the chain to have access to this information. These data sheets were prepared to OSHA's HazCom 1994 guidelines. Since the introduction of GHS, the data sheets are required to conform to the guidelines of HazCom 2012.
Material Safety Data Sheets have been in existence for decades and there are millions of them applicable to a variety of chemicals and formulation. In essence, the MSDS for a chemical is a document that gives complete information about the hazardous nature of the chemical, it's safe handling, storage, and disposal. Chemical manufacturers and distributors must prepare the data sheet and distribute to downstream users. The earlier guidelines provided for employees' right to know in addition to other responsibilities of manufacturers/distributors such as maintaining a hazard communication program, maintain an inventory of chemicals, maintain proper warning signs and labels as well as training employees in preventive and response situations.
Since the introduction of the new HazCom 2012, all such manufacturers must update their MSDS to SDS that is a uniform system of classification that, more or less, follows the earlier MSDS but varies in structure with 16 sections in a strict order. The information contained in the new SDS is not that different from earlier MSDS. A manufacturer or distributor only needs to prepare safety data sheets by incorporating information from the earlier documents. However, there is a niggle in that under the GHS some chemicals have been reclassified and their hazard levels have been revised. This means manufacturers or distributors need to take a careful look at all the chemicals and consider the previous classification as well as the new classification and prepare the SDS accordingly based on earlier documents with necessary modifications. Another requirement is that warning signs, labels and documents must contain information couched in unambiguous language.
It is possible for a manufacturer or distributor of chemicals to undertake this task but it may be time-consuming and there is always a possibility that such people tasked with updating MSDS to SDS may lack the necessary knowledge to correctly interpret new GHS standards. This task is best left to experts. However, what can be done in house is that specific employee may be delegated the task and may oversee training of employees and handle the MSDS library. Updating to new systems also means computerization of records and making the older as well as newer documentation available in electronic format. Not only employees but also downstream users and buyers can be given access to information that can be vital in saving lives and preventing accidents at work. In the majority of cases, the older classified chemicals may not require much revision and those that do can easily be handled by an external professional SDS service provider. The service provider not only helps in preparing new SDS from older MSDS, reclassifying chemicals where necessary but also in conversion to electronic formats.