To assure environmental health and safety, businesses must let their employees know the potential chemical hazards in the workplace. Businesses with such hazards were required to implement OSHA’s revised Hazard Communications Standard (“HCS”) in 2016. Safety Data Sheets (“SDS”) are a key component of HCS, and SDS issues are one of the most frequently cited OSHA violations. Employers should take a moment to make sure their program:
- Identifies the employee(s) responsible for obtaining and maintaining SDSs for every product that may present a workplace hazard;
- Contains a written description on how SDSs are maintained;
- Has instructions and procedures for employees to obtain SDSs and how SDSs can be obtained if a backup is necessary due to a power failure or other event;
- Provides a procedure for follow-up if an SDS is not received with an initial shipment of a chemical; and
- Provides a procedure to assure the SDSs are adequate and current.
By now most employers recognize they are required to have an SDS available for each potentially hazardous product present on their property. The SDS provides a basis for what employee training is required to assure that employee exposure to chemicals is appropriately limited.
Remember, if you can’t document compliance, you are not compliant.
The United Nations has also established a Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (“GHS”). GHS Revision 7 was adopted for international use in 2017, but in the U.S., OSHA currently enforces GHS Revision 3 from 2009. Businesses with international reach should be aware of the potential difference in labeling requirements, and all companies should expect OSHA to further revise the HCS to align with the GHS.