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"Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. "Revising OSHA's Hazard Communication standard will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive."  

OSHA Law and Regulation 

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was created to ensure safety in the workplace for all. Under OSHA law and regulation, employers are responsible for providing employees with a workplace safe from potentially hazardous chemicals and substances. Businesses must follow the Hazard Communication Standard and other enforceable standards in their facilities. Employers must follow these OSHA standards to keep their workplaces free from any form of serious recognized hazards from chemicals and substances. 

OSHA also ensures that these standards are communicated in universally understood methods to ensure workplace safety. This is done through education, training programs, and outreach and assistance to employers. 

OSHA’s Revised Hazard Communication Standard 

In 2013 OSHA has aligned its Hazard Communication Standard with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). 

These revisions to the Standard brought two important changes: 

  • Use of new labeling elements 
  • Standardized format for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) 

Formerly the Standard enforced by OSHA was known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). The new revised standard will not only improve workers’ understanding of the hazards connected with chemicals in the workplace but will also train them to take various precautions while working with them. OSHA, in order to help companies in implementing the new standards, has been phasing the new standards in since they were first drawn in December, 2013. They hope to have the new standard fully phased in by June 1, 2016. 

What are MSDS and SDS? 

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are generally the same. They are both documents that accompany hazardous chemicals and substances. These documents provide an outline of the dangers associated with the particular chemical or substance, their composition, the safe way of handling them, and how to safely dispose of them when necessary. 

Differences between MSDS and SDS There is little practical difference between MSDSs and SDSs, as they cover essentially the same information. The most significant difference between the two safety data sheet types is this: a SDS that is compliant with GHS mandates cannot be a MSDS. 

Earlier, MSDSs were maintained in three-ring binders. With the advent of the Internet OSHA’s HCS mandates these data sheets must be kept in electronic format. If the company continues to use merely the old binders, then they are considered as noncompliant with OSHA regulations. 

16 Sections of SDSs’ GHS Mandate Specifications 

The SDS had to be created and formatted in such a way that it conforms to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS mandates makes 16 standardized sections compulsory, and they must be arranged in a specific order. The GHS mandates are being globally implemented to ensure a standard communication of chemical and substance hazards across international borders. 

The 16 sections of SDS should be provided in the fixed order to comply with Hazcom Standard. 

Section 1: Identification (Product name, Manufacturer name, address or contact details) 

Section 2: Hazard(s) (Chemical label elements) 

Section 3: Composition/information on ingredients 

Section 4: First-aid measures 

Section 5: Fire-fighting measures 

Section 6: Accidental release measures 

Section 7: Handling and storage 

Section 8: Exposure controls/personal protection 

Section 9: Physical and chemical properties 

Section 10: Stability and reactivity 

Section 11: Toxicological information 

Section 12: Ecological information* 

Section 13: Disposal considerations* 

Section 14: Transport information* 

Section 15: Regulatory information* 

Section 16: Other information including additional details. 

* SDS compliance by regulatory authority of other agencies 

Violation of the OSHA HCS regulations can lead to expensive penalties, fines and litigation expenses. This is why it is essential that companies make sure their Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) conform to the specification of OSHA’s new GHS-mandated standards.

MSDS is a topic covered in the Chemical PE Exam specification under the Plant Design and Operation section.