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No Safety Data Sheet! What’s the hold up?

  • Categories: EHS

Article Contributor: Betsy Sibila

As you should already be aware, changes have occurred to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) that align HCS with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  The changes in the standard effect hazardous chemical classification, label elements and pictograms, standardized Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and employee training.  The revised standard not only provides employees the “right to know” but also the “right to understand.”

The phase-in period for GHS requirements includes four key dates:

  • December 1, 2013-Employees must be trained on new label elements and SDS format.
  • June 1, 2015-Compliance with all provisions of the final rule is required.
  • December 1, 2015-Distributors shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless they have HCS compliant labels.
  • June 1, 2016-Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

Many employers think that because the deadline (June 1, 2015) has passed for chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors to provide GHS compliant SDSs, that SDSs will be readily available for distribution.  However, this is not the case.

Employers have not been able to update their SDS systems because distributors have not been distributing new SDSs.  Distributors have not been distributing SDSs because manufacturers have missed their deadline.  Employers can only update their MSDS inventory as quickly as they receive SDSs from chemical manufacturers and distributors.

OSHA understands the challenges employers are facing.  The requirement has not changed for employers to obtain, maintain, and make available to employees the most recent MSDS or SDS for each hazardous chemical in the workplace.  If the employer is not maintaining the most current MSDS or SDS, then enforcement action may occur.  OSHA will not issue citations for maintenance of MSDSs when SDSs have not been received.

KPA continues to update the online MSDS database as SDSs become available, however, this will be an ongoing process as more manufacturers and distributors update and provide new SDSs.

For additional information about HCS and GHS compliance, please contact a KPA Risk Management Consultant or email  The most important thing to remember is that employers have the responsibility to ensure that employees are informed of chemical hazards in the workplace.

In the absence of a Safety Data Sheet, a Material Safety Data Sheet is better than having no sheet at all.

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