What Is an SDS?
The simple explanation is that an SDS is an MSDS. In other words, a safety data sheet and a material safety data sheet are the same thing — documents that accompany hazardous chemicals and substances and outline the dangers, composition, safe handling, and disposal of said chemicals and substances. The name SDS simply refers to a safety data sheet that is constructed to conform to the UN’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS), which mandates use of a standardized 16-section format, arranged in a strict order.
With GHS adoption happening around the world, most current discussion of safety data sheets focuses on the GHS-aligned SDS format. However, even after countries complete GHS adoption, it’s possible that some manufacturers will have missed target dates for creating GHS-aligned SDSs, as has been the case in the United States. As a result, employers may need to continue maintaining safety data sheet libraries that include both SDS and MSDS formats.
MSDSonline cloud-based solutions from VelocityEHS give employers access to the industry leading database of millions of safety data sheets, and the ability to filter results to quickly identify documents in a variety of regulatory formats — including GHS — making it easy to secure whichever format is necessary for a specific workplace. If you are looking for an MSDS or a newly formatted GHS SDS, try our SDS/MSDS Search tool, or start a free trial of the MSDSonline system now.
With the transition from old MSDS formats to the new GHS-styled SDS being such a major part of GHS adoption, we have outlined three areas where organizations that traffic in SDSs may face challenges — SDS authoring, SDS management and SDS training — click on the tabs above to learn more about each, and how we can help.
What is an SDS?
Managing for GHS
Managing SDSs in countries undergoing GHS adoption can be a challenge. For instance, in the United States, OSHA’s revision of the Hazard Communication Standard has resulted in a major safety data sheet churn that in time will result in a 100 percent turnover of companies' active SDS libraries. Unfortunately, many manufacturers were delayed in meeting their chemical reclassification and authoring obligations under the GHS-modified rule, so many end-users are left with inventories that aren't yet fully transitioned.
Electronic management of SDSs can help mitigate the impact this churn has on your company. The key to compliance is starting with a complete and accurate chemical inventory that includes an SDS for every chemical in use at your facility. Additional benefits to electronic SDS management include enhanced chemical management and environmental and regulatory reporting tools.
Training for GHS
SDSs that conform to GHS guidelines may look very different from the safety data sheets your employees had been used to seeing. GHS styled SDSs contain new standardized elements in section 2 that are also found on GHS formatted labels. These elements include: signal words, hazard statements, pictograms and precautionary statements.
A key component of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard is training employees on where to find and how to read SDSs in your workplace. In the U.S., as part of the required training on HCS, which is now aligned with GHS, employees must be trained on the new SDS format, and they must continue to be trained on the older MSDS format for as long as that format exists in their library. MSDSonline solutions offer a suite of on-demand training solutions that can help you ensure your staff is up-to-date and in compliance when it comes to workplace training.
SDS vs. MSDS
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 in particular, these documents were called material safety data sheets or MSDSs – those days are ending.
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 strictly ordered sections.
Differences between an MSDS, an SDS and an SDS that is GHS compliant
There is no difference between an MSDS and an SDS, as 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 a document 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, help is available. MSDSonline solutions from VelocityEHS help 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 are some of the most frequently cited OSHA violations, costing businesses millions in penalties, fines and litigation expenses.
VelocityEHS 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 more than 80,000 new and/or updated safety data sheets added each week.
We combine access to our database with easy-to-use safety data sheet 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).
Benefits of the Cloud
10 Reasons to Manage SDSs via the Cloud:
- 24/7/365 SDS Access – Access your SDSs and management tools everywhere you have a web connection.
- Access to Millions of SDSs – We have the leading online database of indexed and searchable SDSs with thousands of new and updated SDSs added each week.
- Ease of Compliance – Easily backup your SDS library to meet OSHA and WHMIS hazard communication requirements.
- User Friendly – Get started right away in a famililar online environment.
- User Driven SDS Products – Input from thousands of safety professionals drives our solutions, put their collective wisdom and experience to work for you.
- Solutions to Meet Every Need – Regardless of size, number of facilities or budget, we have an SDS solution just right for you.
- ROI – Managing SDSs electronically reduces time and costs compared to traditional paper-based systems.
- Low-Cost of Ownership – No software to install and you get immediate access to new features, updates and releases.
- Compliance Services – Our compliance experts are available to help you build, maintain and verify that your SDS inventory is up-to-date and compliant.
- Dedicated Suppoart – Our compliance experts are here to serve you with product training, general and technical support, and more.