Wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) can protect your body from a chemical’s potential hazards, but the information your Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) takes that protection one step further. An MSDS may become your lifeline when a disastrous event like an accidental spill, fire or explosion happens in the workplace.
An MSDS is a document that contains detailed information about a potentially hazardous substance including it’s potential hazardous effects, physical and chemical characteristics, and recommendations for protective measures. It is an integral part of every organization’s hazard communication (HAZCOM) program.
MSDSs are reference documents that basically serve as a “one-stop shopping source” for anything you may want or need to know about chemicals in your workplace. Employers must have an MSDS for each hazardous chemical they use.
The documents must be easily accessible to employees whenever they are in their work areas. There must be no barriers to access, such as a locked drawer, office door or having to ask for an MSDS.
While many employers keep their MSDSs in a centrally-located binder, it is acceptable to make the documents available electronically through the use of a computer with a printer, microfiche machine, Internet site, CD-ROM or Fax-on-demand system.
If you choose to use electronic MSDSs, employers must ensure that:
- Electronic devices must be reliable and readily accessible to employees at all times,
- Every employee is trained on how to use the electronic MSDS system,
- A back-up system is in place in the event of an emergency, including power outages or equipment and online access delays,
- And the electronic system is part of your overall HAZCOM program.
Remember, providing employees with MSDSs is just one part to complying with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Along with developing your MSDSs, the HCS involves properly labeling hazardous containers and employee training.
Visit G.Neil’s HR Library for more information on hazardous materials safety, OSHA compliance and the tools to help keep employees safe on the job.