Understanding the Differences
A safety data sheet or SDS is a document that accompanies a hazardous chemical and provides detailed information for the safe handling, use, storage and disposal of said chemical. SDSs are created by the chemical manufacturer, distributor or importer, along with safety labels, and provided to downstream users of the hazardous chemical.
For many decades, in the United States and Canada particularly, such documents were called material safety data sheets or MSDSs – those days are ending. MSDSs are now being called SDSs all over the world thanks in large part to the global adoption of a new hazard communication system developed by the United Nations.
Called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) the new system is designed to knit together the world’s hazard communication standards into one coherent system. For instance, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) and Health Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) are being aligned with GHS.
The two major tenets of GHS are the standardization of chemical classification and the standardization of safety labels and safety data sheets. For most users of hazardous chemicals, the most obvious changes will be to labels and SDSs. For instance, SDSs under GHS are formatted into 16 sections with a strict ordering of the sections.
Differences between an MSDS, an SDS and an SDS that is GHS compliant
There is no difference between an MSDS and an SDS, both are generic terms for safety data sheets. A GHS compliant safety data sheet is an SDS but not an MSDS.
Did you get that?
An SDS can be an MSDS, but an MSDS is not an SDS. And calling an SDS does not make it GHS compliant. In order for an SDS to be GHS compliant, it must have 16 sections in the proper order with the relevant information for each section. A GHS compliant SDS is similar to the ANSI Z400.1 MSDS with a couple of key differences.
You can learn more about GHS compliant SDSs by visiting the GHS Answer Center.
To further complicate the issue, a GHS compliant SDS is not necessarily compliant with all local, state, national or global regulations under which your business may operate. Luckily there’s help. MSDSonline helps businesses of all sizes improve the management of chemical products and safety data sheets which today, are still largely underserved by paper-based SDS management systems and processes.
Prior to the widespread use of the Internet, safety professionals managed MSDSs using three‐ring binders. Today, SDS management via paper‐based binders is costly, cumbersome, and often leads to noncompliance with regulations like OSHA’s HCS. As a result, HCS violations is one of the most frequently cited OSHA violations, costing businesses millions in penalties, fines and litigation expenses.
MSDSonline has developed revolutionary EH&S compliance management solutions that are available on-demand via the cloud. We offer online SDS access, management and employee Right-to-Know compliance solutions. Our industry leading online database of SDSs contains millions of indexed, manufacturer-orginial SDS documents. Unlike competitors, our database is dynamic with up to 10,000 new and/or updated safety data sheets added each week.
We combine access to our database with easy-to-use MSDS deployment and inventory management tools. This results in more cost-effective compliance with HCS, Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requirements, the European Commission’s REACH regulation, as well as the more recently adopted elements of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).