By Kim Scaravelli

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is an international agreement to standardize how chemicals are classified and labeled. To incorporate the GHS into existing workplace hazard programs, OHSA has revised its Hazard Communication Standard to include new GHS labeling elements and a GHS-standardized format for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). To comply with the law, U.S. employers must provide workers with training about the new GHS product labels and SDSs by December 1, 2013.

While the terminology has changed slightly – from Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to Safety Data Sheet (SDS) the purpose of the document is the same as always. The SDS remains the primary source of detailed information about a controlled product in the workplace. That said, the ‘new’ SDSs that are already appearing in workplaces across the country look different than the ‘old’ MSDSs workers are accustomed to seeing. The new SDSs include 16 sections of information which appear in the same order on every SDS:

Section 1: Identification
Section 2: Hazard(s) identification
Section 3: Composition/information on ingredients
Section 4: First-aid measures
Section 5: Fire-fighting measures
Section 6: Accidental release measures
Section 7: Handling and storage
Section 8: Exposure controls/personal protection
Section 9: Physical and chemical properties
Section 10: Stability and reactivity
Section 11: Toxicological information
Section 12: Ecological information
Section 13: Disposal considerations
Section 14: Transport information
Section 15: Regulatory information
Section 16: Other information

Over time, as manufacturers and suppliers update their documents to comply with the GHS, SDSs will gradually replace MSDSs. In the meantime, most workplace will have some MSDSs and some SDSs on file and workers must have the training necessary to find information easily using either format.

There are things employers must know about GHS training but there is no need for employers to feel overwhelmed. The internet includes many resources, including government websites, with information to help employers become more knowledgeable about the GHS. Online GHS courses are also available, to provide workers with the training required by law.

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