How Safety Data Sheets Lead to Safer Workplace Practices and Behavior

Unfortunately, there are nearly 3 million workplace accidents each year within the United States of America.

Within most workplaces, it’s essential to adhere to safety guidelines in order to ensure that no complications arise. That is, after all, why the Occupational Health and Safety Administration was formed.

Fortunately, it’s easy to maintain standards for workplace practices with safety data sheets (SDS). But, not everyone knows how to go about it.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.

What Exactly Is a Safety Data Sheet?

As the name suggests, the safety data sheet is essentially a reference that includes information about hazards that you can expect to find within that particular workplace. Most often, these forms elaborate upon the properties and dangers of chemicals within the facility.

For example, a safety data sheet within a lab will provide information on storing, transporting, and handling the lab’s chemicals. Additionally, it will outline any necessary protective gear that needs to be worn.

Safety data sheets also contain information regarding how to handle accidents, such as spills. Additionally, first aid info is included in the event that someone is injured while handling a chemical product. 

What Type of Company Need Safety Data Sheets?

Any facility that incorporates the use or presence of chemicals in a workspace is required by OSHA to have a safety data sheet readily accessible. In general, this includes laboratories and workshops, but could technically extend to any company that has chemicals present.

Otherwise, you run the risk of incurring legal consequences due to two separate scenarios:

  1. Violation of OSHA’s imposed standards on workplace safety
  2. Legal action that’s taken by an employee if they were injured as a result of not having access to a safety data sheet

As you may expect, both of these scenarios could be particularly adverse for a workplace of any type or size. So, it’s imperative to ensure that you follow these procedures correctly.

What Is the Best Way to Implement Safety Data Sheets?

Frequently, these data sheets are stored as hard copies within the facility to ensure that workers always have access to them. However, this can make it difficult to keep the safety data sheets updated with the latest information.

Instead, a reliable practice to incorporate is to provide online access to safety data sheets. This will ensure that an event like a power outage doesn’t prevent access.

It’s imperative to store hard copies in a place where relevant employees have access to during work hours. Keeping them in a closet that must be opened by management with a key, for example, is not suitable.

Additionally, the same can be said for online access (if there’s password protection, the employees must be given the password).

Having a combination of both physical and electronic copies will prevent a contingency from putting your workers at risk. 

Ongoing Maintenance

As previously mentioned, safety data sheets should always include the most current information in order to absolve you of any liability and to keep your employees as safe as possible.

In general you should audit your facility’s safety data sheets every two years or so. This process should include taking an inventory of the chemical products that your facility no longer uses and archiving those safety data sheets. In addition, if your facility uses an online sds management company, your safety data sheets should be automatically updated by your service provider. 

Proper Training 

It’s not enough to simply post a hard copy of an SDS on a wall or send employees a link to where they can find the safety data sheet. Instead, you must properly train your employees on the document’s information so that they fully understand it.

While the information may vary slightly from one facility to the next, it typically covers topics such as:

  • How to identify hazardous chemicals in the workplace
  • Warning labels and how to read them
  • How to handle facility-specific scenarios
    (such as coming into contact with a dangerous chemical)
  • How to identify responsible staff (such as a supervisor or manager)

Without proper training, your employees will encounter complications while working with chemicals; which could easily result in injury.

How to Stay Compliant With Your Workplace Practices

In order to stay compliant with OSHA’s regulations, there’s a handful of steps that you can take in order to make sure all of your bases are covered.

This includes labeling chemicals in your facility and preparing a written program for handling hazardous substances. You should also establish your inventory.

Additionally, you’ll need to document your workers’ training, ensure that you’ve made your safety data sheet readily available, and developed procedures that you can use to maintain the efficacy of your safety program.

Finally, it’s a good idea to develop a form of internal auditing that you can use to ensure that your safety program is working as intended.

Conclusion

Properly incorporating safety data sheets can seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.

Utilizing the information in this article, will ensure that your workplace is as safe as possible. 

Want to learn more about how we can help? Feel free to get in touch with us today to see what we can do.

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