FAQs: Updating and Managing Safety Data Sheets

We’ve been helping our clients with compliance solutions, peerless expertise and mission-critical technologies for years. And in doing so, we’ve fielded many of the same questions from our partners about how to best protect employees, keep the environment safe, and reduce some of the risks we experience in today’s world.

So, we thought it may be a good idea to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about safety data sheets, so you can feel confident that you’re doing all you can to run a safe, compliant operation.

1. Once a manufacturer/supplier has updated their SDS, when are they required to send it to downstream to their customers? How often do SDSs need to be updated?

Some manufacturers/suppliers voluntarily send updated SDS to their customers as soon as the new SDS has been revised. However, they aren’t required to do that. In fact, they only must provide updated SDS with the next order shipped following an update and upon request.

Under 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(6)(i), “chemical manufacturers or importers shall ensure that distributors and employers are provided an appropriate safety data sheet with their initial shipment, and with the first shipment after a safety data sheet is updated;” and, part iv of the same standard further states that “the chemical manufacturer or importer shall also provide distributors or employers with a safety data sheet upon request.”

Understanding that SDS are not automatically sent out just because they have been updated is important to know. “Under paragraphs 1910.1200(g)(1) and (g)(8), employers must have and maintain the most current MSDS/SDSs and make them available to their employees.” That means you may have to ask the supplier or manufacturer to provide it.

2. When are manufacturers and suppliers required to update their SDS?

A common misconception is that the requirement to update an SDS is driven by the calendar, when in fact, it is driven by the availability of new hazard information. Once there is new information, however, the clock does begin ticking. According to OSHA, “The chemical manufacturer, importer or employer preparing the safety data sheet shall ensure that the information provided accurately reflects the scientific evidence used in making the hazard classification. If the chemical manufacturer, importer or employer preparing the safety data sheet becomes newly aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical, or ways to protect against the hazards, this new information shall be added to the safety data sheet within three months.”

And for updating labels with new, ‘significant information,’ OSHA says, “Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, or employers who become newly aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical shall revise the labels for the chemical within six months of becoming aware of the new information, and shall ensure that labels on containers of hazardous chemicals shipped after that time contain the new information.”

3. How do I know if the SDS my suppliers provide for my binders are, in fact, GHS compliant SDS and will meet OSHA’s requirements?

While creating a compliant SDS is complex and can be overwhelming, even for experts, identifying non-GHS compliant supplier SDS, isn’t always hard. With this simple checklist, you can quickly identify some of the SDS you should send back. If your answer to all these is ‘yes,’ the SDS may still not be compliant, But, if your answer is ‘no,’ then the SDS is clearly not.

  • Safety Data Sheets: If it says MSDS, it’s not compliant. And even if it says SDS, it still may not be compliant. The rest of this list will help determine your compliance.
  • OSHA HAZCOM 49 CFR 1910.1200: The header or footer must discuss the regulations with which it’s compliant.
  • June 15, 2016: While the date of preparation end users needed to comply by was June 2016, manufacturers had to comply by June 2015, and suppliers by
  • December 2015. Anything before those dates is likely not compliant and anything older than two years should be reviewed, too.
  • 16 sections: The old OSHA format was eight sections. Compliance requires 16 sections in a very particular order. This is critical, especially in sections 2 and 3. If section 2 has the product ingredients, then it is likely the old ANSI version. In either case, it is not compliant.

4. Can SDSs be available online instead of in a binder?

OSHA says in 1910.1200(g)(8) that it is permissible to provide electronic access to SDSs provided the employee knows how to access the SDSs and they are not password-protected. Further, for electronic workplace SDS compliance, OSHA requires that electronic SDSs be included in your organization’s Hazard Communication Plan and meet all of the following requirements:

  • Identifies hazardous chemicals in the workplace;
  • Identifies chemical containers, container locations and quantities-on-hand of hazardous chemicals at the site;
  • Keeps up-to-date SDSs for all chemicals in the workplace;
  • Trains employees about chemical hazards as well as how to find and access SDS;
  • Informs employees who are involved in non-routine tasks that may involve hazardous chemicals of the hazards associated with them;
  • Informs contractors, visitors, and others of the presence of hazardous materials

Read more about binder requirements here.

5. What are the penalties for non-compliance with SDS requirements?

Effective August 1, 2016, maximum OSHA fines for serious violations – those regarding hazard classification, written Hazard Communication programs, labeling, and no or inadequate training – rose from $7,000 to $12,934.

Such citations include:

  • Failure to have a required SDS
  • Failure to provide an SDS at the time of shipment
  • Failure to provide an SDS upon request
  • Failure to make SDSs readily accessible to employees
  • Failure to provide an emergency backup system when using electronic access to SDSs
  • Failure to provide SDSs at multi-employer worksites.

6. What are the most frequently cited violations?

Violations of the Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard have historically dominated the list of most frequently cited violations – and they are as follows:

  1. Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  2. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  4. Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
  5. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
  6. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
  7. Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
  8. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212)
  9. Fall Protection–Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503)
  10. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305)

Granted, there are countless questions to ask about safety and compliance than could ever be itemized – but that’s why we’re here! Because at GSM, we work with you to understand your specific challenges in order to come up with the best solutions to keep you compliant. Contact us today to see how we can help you save time and money so you can focus on what is important to your business!