Creating smart safety policies in the workplace is essential to keep staff members safe. But how do you use data to create these policies?
That’s where safety data sheets, also known as SDS, come in. They are scientific, help people make decisions, and offer essential contextual clarity in emergency situations. Plus, they can be interpreted by almost anyone.
Keep reading to learn how to use safety data to create essential policies at your company.
What Are Safety Data Sheets and Why Are They Necessary?
An SDS (formerly known as MSDS) provides information on chemical substances, including:
- The properties of each chemical
- The physical, health, and environmental health hazards of the chemical
- Protective measures to take
- Safety precautions for handling, storing and transferring the chemical
It also offers guidance for each specific chemical on things like personal protective equipment (PPE), first-aid procedures, and spill clean-up methods.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard and Lab Safety Standard both mandate that SDS are easily accessible during every work shift to staff members when they’re in their work areas. Any laboratory, facility, or shop that uses chemical substances must have an SDS that’s specific to every chemical used to assist with OSHA regulations.
An SDS must provide enough information so employers can take the right measures to protect their staff members. There are over 150 million different chemicals in the world, and it’s impossible for anyone to comprehend the dangers of each one. That’s why SDS are so essential.
If your workplace deals with any hazardous products or substances, you need safety data sheets, no matter how small your company is. While some workplaces have 50 sheets, others may have more than 50,000.
Generally, you require an SDS for any chemical substance that’s present in the workplace and is deemed ‘hazardous’ under applicable regulations.
When it comes to creating or sourcing an SDS for workplace safety, the easiest option is to look from the same place you got the chemical itself. Chemical suppliers legally have to provide a complete and accurate SDS for every chemical substance they produce or import, and many make them available for access online.
However, if it’s your organization creating the chemical materials, it’s your job and responsibility to produce an SDS to go with it.
How to Use Safety Data Sheets
There are various ways you can use safety data sheets to create smart safety policies at your company to help with risk management. Read on to find out what they are.
Learn How to Use PPE
Firstly, it can help staff members learn how to use personal protective equipment when handling certain chemical substances. If staff members have to work with a hazardous substance, they can use the SDS for that chemical to learn if PPE is necessary. If so, they can learn which conditions it’s needed under, for which types of exposure, and which PPE is necessary.
For example, SDS may specifically note ‘Use respiratory equipment with gas filter’ for a certain substance.
Transfer Chemical Substances
Likewise, if staff members need to transfer a chemical substance from one container to another, they can check the SDS. Sections 7, 13, and 14 of any SDS go through safe handling, disposal, shipping, and transportation.
If a staff member approaches you with an ailment or injury, and you’re unsure if you can determine it as work-related or not, you can check your SDS. Section 11 of an SDS notes toxicology and health effects, while section eight covers exposure limits.
An SDS may note, for example, whether a substance can lead to redness, itching, skin cracking, or any other symptoms with prolonged exposure to the skin.
Keep SDS Accessible
SDS must always be accessible to staff members. This means there should be no barrier at all to their access.
Paper copies cannot be locked anywhere that staff members can’t reach. Likewise, electronic copies cannot require a password. Any safety audits involving chemical substances and storage areas must include SDS compliance, so no missing or old sheets, for example.
Discover Whether You Need to Do Air Monitoring
Finally, another way you can use SDS is to learn whether or not you need to do air monitoring, along with communicating exposure limits for specific chemical substances.
These limits are:
- Short-term exposure limits (STEL)
- Permissible exposure limits (PEL)
- Time-weighted average (TWA)
Safety Data Sheet Management
Fortunately, there are SDS management programs available to make it easy to handle your data and create smart safety policies at your company to help with hazard management and workplace safety.
Here at Online-SDS, we offer SDS management services to take all the hard work out from looking after the data. Our software scans and indexes SDS into your unique database and electronically downloads them to your network.
Customers receive the Online-SDS™ brand management software, license-free, to use. The software allows customers to run reports and analyze any chemical materials on site. You can also print labels, binders, and index sheets to organize your SDS easily and can distribute SDS sheets to staff members on your company’s Intranet system.
Whether you prefer your SDS hosted on the internet or locally, the choice is yours. Whatever decision you go for, your staff members will have access to your unique database of SDS with a login or special web address. There is no extra charge for this service, either.
Are You Ready to Use Safety Data Sheets at Your Company?
Knowing how to use safety data sheets in various ways is an excellent way to help you create smart policies for your company.
If you need help managing your safety data sheets, we’re here to help. Receive on-demand access to your chemical collection from any connected device and manage them with ease using our easy-to-use software. Schedule a demo now.