A Guide to SDS Management

Why do I need a guide to SDS Management?

Your workplace has hazardous chemical products that you are likely unaware of. The corresponding Safety Data Sheets for these products are filled with useful information for workplace safety. Properly managing those Safety Data Sheets is an important first step in becoming aware of the hazards and achieving chemical safety compliance.

A guide to SDS Management will give you a complete overview of Safety Data Sheets including the basics, commonly asked questions, industry best practices, and how you can use SDS RiskAssist to take your SDS Management to the next level. This guide is intended for a Canadian audience.

Safety Data Sheet Management is often a second thought in a workplace safety program and a missed opportunity when it comes to improving workplace chemical safety. Any organization can become a health and safety leader in their industry by taking a more proactive approach to chemical safety. Make sure you read to the end where there are some surprising statistics and tips on how to best manage the overwhelming (and useful) information found in your Safety Data Sheets.

Your Safety Data Sheets can empower your workplace once you unlock the gold mine of information within them. There are many cases where the hazardous products used in a workplace have safer alternatives! Try SDS RiskAssist today and discover how to make your workplace safer and healthier through better SDS Management.

Shortcuts

The Roadmap

SDS Management Roadmap showing 5 sections in form of mountain

Your Guide Forward: In the following sections you will be taken through the SDS Management roadmap for success. If at any time you want to be taken back to the Shortcuts menu, click the green button labeled "Shortcuts Menu" on desktop or tablet screens.

The Basics

The first step of SDS Management is to determine if you require it. Since you're reading this guide it's safe to say that you do need it. Once you've confirmed this, it's important to learn about the basics of safety data sheets and the different regulations that need to be complied with.

In Practice

Now that you've mastered the basics of safety data sheets it's time to put the legislated requirements into action. In this section you will learn about your requirements to be in compliance with the law. This includes what procedures need to be in place and what actions are required on an ongoing basis.


The Specifics

At this point, it's time to get into the specific details of safety data sheets and their management. This section of the guide will provide further insight on what you need to know about SDSs in day to day operations.


Industry Best Practices

You're now in compliance and are looking to take your safety data sheet management to the next level. In this next section we'll be discussing industry best practices. We are experts in Chemical Safety and SDS Management at Rillea Technologies and have seen what qualities enable companies to excel in their chemical safety programs.


SDS RiskAssist

Now that you're in compliance and have some of the best industry practices, it's time to introduce you to the way you can take your SDS Management to the next level. We like to think that our solution, SDS RiskAssist, is the best SDS Management system available and will tell you why.


The Basics

1.1 What is a safety data sheet (SDS)?

A safety data sheet, commonly shortened to its acronym "SDS", is a standardized summary document provided by a chemical supplier to provide information about the hazards, ingredients, storage and transport instructions, safety precautions, and more. Safety data sheets are the primary source of information about chemical hazards that exist in a workplace.

Read more about this topic is in an article Rillea is featured in with Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.

Example Safety Data Sheet

1.2 What is the difference between an MSDS and an SDS?

A material safety data sheet (MSDS) is the older version of the currently accepted safety data sheet (SDS). The information contained in an MSDS is limited and unstandardized as compared to an SDS. The development of SDSs requires suppliers to follow a rigorous process to ensure hazard information is presented in a consistent, user-friendly format. MSDS's were the standard in Canada until June 1, 2015. If you have MSDSs in your collection for products that are still in use and still being produced by a supplier, you are required to source an updated SDS immediately.


1.3 What is included in a SDS?

A standard SDS has 16 sections as outlined in WHMIS 2015 and the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Schedule 1 of the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) outlines the section numbers and headings that are required in Canada.

These sections include the following:

Section 1 – Identification: Product identifier, supplier or distributor name, address, phone number, emergency phone number, recommended use, and restrictions on use.

Section 2 – Hazard(s) identification: All chemical hazards and the required label elements.

Section 3 – Composition/Information on ingredients:  Hazardous chemical ingredients found in the product and any trade secret claims.

Section 4 – First-aid measures: First aid treatment information for exposure to the product and any symptoms of exposure.

Section 5 – Fire-fighting measures: Recommendations for extinguishing a fire involving the product and any hazards potentially created during combustion.

Section 6 – Accidental release measures: Procedure to follow in the event of a spill or release involving the product. 

Section 7 – Handling and storage:  Precautions for safe handling and storage. This includes incompatibilities.

Section 8 – Exposure controls/Personal protection:  Occupational exposure limits (OELs), threshold limit values (TLVs), appropriate engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Section 9 – Physical and chemical properties:  The product's characteristics.

Section 10 – Stability and reactivity:  Stability of the product and possible hazardous reactions.

Section 11 – Toxicological information:  Routes of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, skin/eye contact or injection), symptoms, acute and chronic effects, and numerical measures of toxicity.

Section 12 – Ecological information:  Description on environmental effects and the duration.

Section 13 – Disposal considerations: Safety handling and disposal procedures.

Section 14 – Transportation information: Information on packing, labeling, and marking requirements for hazardous shipments.

Section 15 – Regulatory information: Any regulations that apply to product.

Section 16 – Other information: Any other information including preparation date or last revision.


1.4 What products require SDSs?

Every product that is classified as a "hazardous product" under WHMIS (see table in section 2.2 for applicable provincial/territorial legislation) that will be used, handled, or stored in a workplace must have a safety data sheet.


1.5 What is SDS Management?

Worker_OverWhelmed_with_SDS_Management

SDS Management is the practice of organizing and sharing safety data sheets with employees, to be compliant with health and safety regulations. SDSs contain critical workplace safety information. This is why WHMIS regulations include the requirement to store SDSs so they are readily accessible to employees, keep SDSs up-to-date, train employees based on SDS information, and much more. Having a management system in place can enable you to take the sometimes overwhelming task of SDS Management and make it simple.


SDS Management systems in the past have typically involved a binder holding all of your SDSs. This method is cumbersome, difficult to control and intimidating for workers. A slightly better approach is to maintain SDSs on a shareable electronic or cloud platform. While the SDSs are easier to maintain, someone still has to read and summarize the critical workplace safety information, which is still intimidating – especially for workers.

The next generation SDS Management systems like SDS RiskAssist, use digital technology to automatically extract the critical information for you and summarize it in actionable ways. These systems enable employers to make real progress in workplace chemical safety,


1.6 Do I Need SDS Management?

Any workplace that handles or stores products defined as hazardous by the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is required to have SDSs for those products in Canada. The workplace is required to have a method in place where employees are able to access the SDSs for chemicals they are exposed to in their work. This method is often referred to as SDS Management. There are different ways of managing SDSs which are discussed in the sections below. SDS RiskAssist is Rillea Technologies' next generation SDS Management software.

SDS Management alone is NOT enough to meet your compliance requirements under the regulations.

SDS RiskAssist™ Hand & Phone with COS 2019 Winner's Badge

In Practice

2.1 What do government regulations say about SDSs?

In Canada, hazardous chemicals are governed by Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). This system is aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) which is used globally. WHMIS is regulated in the workplace by the provinces, territories and federal (for federally regulated workplaces) governments under their occupational health and safety legislation. Depending on your jurisdiction there may be slight variations in the implementation of WHMIS 2015.

Discover the gap that exists between the intent of WHMIS and the on-the-ground reality by reading the White Paper – The WHMIS Gap.

Supplier requirements are regulated by federal legislation known as the the Hazardous Products Act and the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR). However, chemical supplier-related laws are governed by Health Canada.

WHMIS: The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulation was established under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1988. It is Canada's national hazard communication standard. The purpose of this regulation is to give employees, employers, and the public information about hazardous materials used in the workplace. In 2015, WHMIS was revised to align with GHS. WHMIS implementation can be difficult for employers to stay on top of due to the volume of information included in SDSs.

There are some hazardous substances that may be exempt from certain WHMIS requirements, including safety data sheets and labels. Generally this is because these substances are covered by different regulations. Some examples of these substances include:

  • Explosives (Explosives Act)
  • Cosmetics, devices, drugs or foods (Food and Drugs Act)
  • Pest control products (Pest Control Products Act)
  • Consumer products (Canada Consumer Product Safety Act)
  • Tobacco or tobacco products (Tobacco Act)
  • Nuclear substances (Nuclear Safety and Control Act)

HPR: The federal Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) specifies the criteria for classifying hazards posed by chemical products and provides the requirements for product labels and safety data sheets. It came into effect in 2015 and replaced the Controlled Products Regulations of WHMIS 1988 under the authority of the Hazardous Products Act (HPA). The HPA requires suppliers of hazardous products to communicate those hazards with product labels and safety data sheets for workplace use. If a product meets the specified criteria to be included in a hazard class or category then it is considered a hazardous product. Once the product is considered hazardous it is covered under WHMIS 2015 regulations.

The key elements of the Hazardous Products Regulations according to the Government of Canada are:

  • Classification criteria for health hazards associated with hazardous products
  • Requirements for product labels to communicate the hazards of chemicals used in workplaces
  • Requirements for SDSs to provide more detailed information concerning the hazards of chemicals used in workplaces.

GHS: The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, usually shortened to Global Harmonizing System (GHS), is the United Nation’s global system of standardization and harmonization of chemical labelling, safety data sheets, and classification. The plan for worldwide implementation was adopted in 2002. GHS is non-binding and not a global law or regulation, but rather a system of recommendations. There is no obligation to adopt any or all of the GHS. In fact, only GHS elements that have been explicitly adopted by Canadian legislation are enforceable in Canada.


2.2 How often does an SDS need to be updated?

Although Canada's Hazardous Products Regulations requires suppliers to update their SDSs only if new information becomes available, occupational health and safety is regulated by each provincial/territorial jurisdiction in Canada. Therefore, your need to update your company's SDSs will depend on what jurisdiction(s) your business operates in. The following table summarizes the regulations by province/territory (note that laws are subject to change):

Most jurisdictions require an employer to update to the most recent supplier SDS at the workplace as soon as practicable after significant new data about a product is provided by the supplier, or becomes available to the employer in some other way. Significant new data means that the information about a hazardous product has changed and the product's classification or how you are protected from the product have been updated. The supplier of a hazardous product is still responsible for ensuring that the provided labels and safety data sheets are up to date, accurate, and compliant with Hazardous Product Regulations at the time of sale or import. Read more about updating safety data sheets in our blog post and learn how you can use SDS RiskAssist to know where to focus your updating process.

In jurisdictions that require updates every three years, many suppliers are adding "print dates" to their SDSs. This is the date that the SDS is downloaded from their website and indicates that on this date, the SDS was the latest version being made available by the supplier.


2.3 What if I can't get an accurate SDS?

If you are unable to get an accurate safety data sheet then you must contact the supplier. The best way to contact a supplier is to visit their website for their contact information. Some suppliers will have designated pages for their safety data sheet information and others you will have to contact by other means for the latest updates.

If you are unable to obtain a WHMIS 20215-compliant safety data sheet for a hazardous product from the supplier, then you have two choices; stop using the product and eliminate it from your workplace or create an employer WHMIS 2015-compliant safety data sheet for the product.


2.4 Can I keep my SDSs digitally?

Yes, safety data sheets can be stored digitally as long as you meet several conditions including:

  • All employees have access to the digitally stored SDSs
  • Employees are trained on how to access the digitally stored SDSs
  • The computers and/or devices used to access the SDSs must be in good working order
  • The employer must make a hard copy of the SDS available to the employee upon request

2.5 Where should I keep SDSs?

Safety data sheets can be stored electronically or as paper copies and must be stored in a location that all employees can access during work hours. This means that your storage location must not be behind a locked door or on a password protected device that employees do not have the password for. SDSs should be stored in the work area so that employees have easy access to the required information.

There are many advantages to storing your safety data sheets electronically. SDS binders require printing of large amounts of paper, are tedious to update, and above all their safety data is locked away in paper, waiting for someone to read it. Our unique software, SDS RiskAssist, can unlock the data for you and present it to your fingertips in easy to understand ways so that you can take action for a safer workplace. There is a lot you can learn from your safety data sheets that you probably don't already know.


2.6 What are my training requirements for SDSs?

SDS management is only one part of meeting your chemical safety compliance requirements. Under WHMIS 2015 there are two distinct training requirements: general WHMIS education and workplace specific training. The general WHMIS education provides information about WHMIS principles, hazard classes and symbols, safety data sheets, labels, and other non-workplace specific subjects.

Workplace specific training can be an afterthought, but is more important for informing and protecting your employees than general WHMIS education. Workplace specific training involves providing job specific training to workers including handling, storing, using, and disposing of hazardous products. All workers who are exposed to hazardous products in the workplace are required to receive this training.


The Specifics

3.1 Why is SDS management important?

SDSs tell employers how the chemicals they use can harm employees, the environment or infrastructure. Ensuring that you have the proper SDSs for the hazardous chemicals you are using is not only a regulatory requirement, it can guide you about how to safely use these needed chemicals without causing harm.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1.   Do I use chemicals in my workplace?

2.   Do I know which ones can harm my employees, the environment or infrastructure?

3.   Have I taught my employees how to use these dangerous chemicals?


If you are happy with your answers then don’t change what you are doing. If a knot has formed in the pit of your stomach because you said Yes, No and No then it is time to manage your safety data sheets differently. One of the problems with chemicals is we can’t intuitively tell which ones are dangerous and which ones are not.


Their names don’t tell us. As an example, which of the following common chemicals is more hazardous? 

Trichloroethylene

Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether

Causes serious eye irritation

Causes skin irritation

May cause an allergic skin reaction

May cause drowsiness or dizziness

Suspected of causing genetic defects

May cause cancer

Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects

Causes serious eye irritation

This is where SDS Management helps. Your collection of safety data sheets will tell you the hazards, even if the product name sounds "safe". Crown Nfp Safety Solvent (contains 60 to 100% trichloroethylene) and Miracle Disinfectant Spray “N Wipe Cleaner (contains 8% Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether).

Chances are you need SDS Management. You probably also need to ensure you have an effective chemical safety management program to go with it. And if this is not enough motivation then remember, you are legally required to have an up-to-date SDS for every hazardous product in your organization that falls under Canada's Hazardous Products Regulations and you must provide employee training for all hazardous products, even if you fall under different regulations.


3.2 How will I know if a SDS has been updated?

There is currently no notification system in place from suppliers of safety data sheets on when they've been updated. The onus is on the employer to check for any updates to SDSs. At the point of sale a supplier must provide the purchaser with the most up-to-date safety data sheet or inform them of new information, if the safety data sheet has not yet been updated. One of the best ways to stay on top of your SDS updating process is to measure the age of them. SDS RiskAssist has a built in tool that allows for easy updating of SDSs from the most common suppliers in our database with links directly to their SDS directory pages.


3.3 Where can I find SDSs?

Safety data sheets must be provided with the purchase of any hazardous product governed by Hazardous Products Regulations. The best source for the most up to date and accurate safety data sheets is directly from the product supplier. The internet is a great resource for finding a supplier's website and many of them will have designated SDS pages to download the latest versions. There are some services that advertise the ability to keep your safety data sheets up to date but be cautious because our data has shown that many SDSs are still out of date while using these types of services. The only way to be 100% confident you have the most up to date sheets is to obtain them directly from the supplier.


3.4 How can I simplify the information on an SDS?

Safety data sheets contain 16 sections of information that can sometimes only be understood by safety professionals or industry experts. At the time of writing, there are over 200,000 chemicals registered for use with the European Chemicals Agency and thousands of new chemicals are introduced to market every year. The Chemical Abstract Service has over 185 million substances registered. The amount of information is extremely overwhelming and people must depend on good documentation to clearly understand the risk of harm from hazardous chemicals and products.

The best way to simplify the vast amount of information available about the hazardous chemicals you use in your workplace is to use a digital tool such as SDS RiskAssist. The advantage of storing your safety data sheets digitally is that using next gen technology, our software is able to read the sheets for you and compare them to a myriad of regulations and best practice information. Once these sheets have been read, automated 1-page safety briefs provide the most pertinent information for your employees via their mobile or desktop devices and can even be printed and laminated for easy reference.

SDS RiskAssist on Iphone showing version 5 home screen

3.5 What do I do once I have all my SDSs accessible to employees?

A collection of SDSs is like a jigsaw puzzle. You need to get all the pieces of the puzzle, but the benefit of the pieces is only apparent when you have assembled them to see the full picture. Every SDS you have contains at least 10 pieces of data that would be useful in protecting people and the environment from the chemical products you use in your workplace. That means an organization with 100 SDSs has as many pieces of data as a 1,000-piece puzzle. Like the puzzle the pieces are all different and there are many ways to proceed.

With a puzzle the most common way to start is with the edge pieces because they are easier to find and they outline the final picture. Then you and your team might start sorting the pieces by colour or shape.

Similarly, SDS RiskAssist gives you tools to prioritize your chemical hazards, starting with the most urgent hazards then to occupational disease hazards and finally the more common hazards. The ability to sort these hazards by location enables you to collaborate with supervisors and the Joint Health and Safety Committee members across your organization to quickly gain oversight over your risks to employees and the environment.

This approach over a period of time (days, weeks and sometimes even years) will result in a valuable chemicals management system that will lead to better workplace wellness and reduced costs associated with absenteeism and presenteeism.


3.6 What are designated substances?

A designated substance in Ontario is a biological, chemical or physical agent or combination considered so hazardous that worker exposure is prohibited, limited, regulated, restricted, or controlled. There are currently 11 designated substances under O. Reg. 490/09. Table 1 of these regulations contains the following 11 substances: Acrylonitrile, Arsenic, Asbestos, Benzene, Coke Oven Emissions, Ethylene Oxide, Isocyanates, Lead, Mercury, Silica and Vinyl Chloride. If you use, handle or store any of the 11 designated substances or chemical products containing these ingredients, then O. Reg. 490/09 applies to you.

In order to figure out if your workplace contains designated substances review your safety data sheets. Section 3 of an SDS will list the ingredients of the product and Section 15 will list even traces of ingredients that pose special hazards. While there are 11 listed designated substances in Ontario Regulation 490, Table 1, there are many different names for these substances. For example, there are 8 types of isocyanates that are listed as hazardous in the table and must be searched for in your product's ingredient list. This takes time and properly managing designated substances presents their own challenges.


Industry Best Practices

4.1 How should I delete or archive old SDSs?

One of the first steps to do when managing safety data sheets is to remove ones that are out of date or no longer in compliance. For example, if your SDS collection contains Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) then these are no longer in compliance and need to be updated, if you still use the product. If you purchase a product and the supplier has made a significant change to the SDS, then you're required to make the update available to employees.


This can be a tedious and time consuming tasks if done manually. SDS RiskAssist is able to read your SDS collection and advise you on the type of sheet (SDS or MSDS) and age of the sheet so that you can quickly hone in on the sheets that require your attention. Rather than going through each individual sheet looking for the pertinent information, what you need is provided at your fingertips so that you can make the appropriate updates fast.

Another aspect to keep in mind when deleting SDSs is that some jurisdictional regulations require employers to maintain SDSs for hazardous products for a defined period of time. For example, Part 35 of Manitoba's Workplace Health and Safety Regulation requires the following:

35.15(2) An employer must keep a safety data sheet referred to in subsection (1) for at least 30 years after it was received from the supplier or prepared by the employer.

SDS Compliance Dashboard on SDS RiskAssist

SDS RiskAssist Sheet Compliance Dashboard


4.2 Can I remove hazardous chemicals from use?

In the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls the elimination of the hazard is the most important part of the pyramid. When looking to put controls in place to protect workers in the workplace, step one is to look at elimination of the hazards. Our data shows that many times, workplace have too many chemical products that aren't actually required. If the job to be done by the chemical product is absolutely required then step two is to look for substitutions. Ask the question "are there safer alternatives available that do the same job"? If there are not, then continue down the pyramid to Engineering Controls, Administrative Controls, and finally Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).


The largest challenge we find with the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls is having the right and relevant information available for your workplace. Management is responsible for ensuring workers are protected and can not adequately do so without the right information available.

NIOSH_Hierarchy_of_Controls

4.3 What are two common misconceptions about SDS Management?

Misconception 1: "We have an SDS binder, that is all an Inspector wants to see." – First Line Supervisor


This one sentence sums up what most people believe. And yet it is not true and has led to a false sense of compliance. This is the wording from a judgement against an Ontario company that cost them $50,000:


"Failing as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker – that is, to failing to take the reasonable precaution of providing for local ventilation in the area where the plastic was being processed"


Was the requirement to provide ventilation reasonable? Here is another quote from the judgement:


"The SDS for the plastic recommends, among other measures, that personal protection be provided to workers involved in processing the plastic and that local exhaust (ventilation) be provided to control employee exposure to dust or process vapors."


Lesson Learned – having a collection of SDSs is not enough. You must read them and take the recommendation actions to protect your people.

Misconception 2: "The information for our hazardous materials is online and provided by an external company. It is kept up to date and they will provide us with new SDS sheets for new products." – Senior Executive


An audit of the information in their SDS system showed the following:

Category

Number of Sheets

Percent of Total Sheets

Total Number of Sheets

600

100%

Duplicates and Obsolete

120

20%

Out of Compliance

60

10%

SDS > 5 Years old

55

9%

SDSs < 5 Years old

365

61%

Would you be happy with a supplier who delivered this level of performance?


Lesson Learned – If you have someone sitting a 1,000 miles from your facility who is managing 20,000,000 other SDSs you need a way to measure their performance. After all you are paying them.


4.4 What does SDS Management due diligence look like?

Imagine you have been fined by a MOL Inspector for an employee not wearing gloves while handling chemicals, or worse because an employee suffered chemical burns handling a hazardous material in your workplace.

Now you are scrambling to provide evidence of due diligence – your only way to defend yourself.


WorkSafeBC has a Due Diligence checklist you can use. It has over 50 items on it.


Here are three actions the employer should have taken that would show due diligence in this case:

1.    Assigned responsibility for identifying hazards and conducting risk assessments

2.    Implemented appropriate controls for identified hazards (i.e. chemical hazards

3.    Ensured supervisors monitor work conditions and practise in their areas


One key in due diligence is that the activities taken to protect employees must have been conducted and documented prior to the event.


So how does SDS Management fit with due diligence?

Having a complete set of SDSs for all your chemical products in an easily accessible location (paper or electronic) and records showing evidence of updates is certainly going to help.


But have you unlocked the information in the SDS that identifies the hazards, used information from the SDS and company standards to identify and implement control measures and are your supervisors aware of this information and do they routinely monitor for compliance to your workplace procedures?


In other words, chemical due diligence starts with SDS Management. It doesn’t, however, end there. Don't be a chemical bystander.


4.5 How do I measure results when improving SDS Management?

If you want to lower your golf score you might take some lessons. But you would measure the success of the lessons by your new (hopefully lower) score.


If you value SDS Management as an essential part of your organization's process of protecting people and the environment, you probably need to have a few measures of how you are doing.


You could ask someone. "How are we doing on keeping our SDSs up-to-date?"


"Great. We are on top of it!" Sounds like a good response. But what does it mean? Does it mean the same to you as it does to the person answering your question?


3 Things You Can Measure

1)    Do your sheets comply with the Hazardous Products Regulations?

2)    How many sheets are more than 5 years old?

3)    When was last field audit of your chemical inventory?


Here is why these are Important Questions:


1) The SDSs provided to you by your suppliers have to meet the standards of the HPR. This enables you to compare products on an apples to apples basis. For example, when suppliers follow the rigorous hazard evaluation in the HPR, the hazard statement “May Cause Cancer” means the same thing on every product – as does its absence. If an SDS doesn’t follow the regulations, you don’t have a clear picture of what the hazards are. Here is an example of how well one organization’s sheets complied with the regulations:

Do your sheets comply with the HPR (WHMIS) Graph Summary

Approximately 17% of the sheets available to employees do not comply with current regulations.

2) In the old version of WHMIS, MSDSs needed to be replaced every 3 years. This was easy to understand but created a lot of useless work replacing documentation that had not changed. Depending on your jurisdiction, the 3-year requirement may no longer apply. Is this better? It depends! How do you know when there is a significant change? By checking with the supplier. This could turn out to be more work than the old system. Here are the results of the work completed to update sheets for 1 organization. 

Replacement Sheets Required By Age Of Sheet Graph

For sheets over 5 years old, 45 % had significant changes to the hazards. Either the hazards were updated or the product had become obsolete. For sheets 3-4 years old the figure was 33%. 

If you sheets > 5 years old, you should check to ensure they are still accurate and that the product is still available and in use.

Here are some examples of the 3 categories we recorded during our exercise to update an entire SDS collection: 

Example 1: Sheets Updated, No Change to Hazards

Date

October 27, 2014

April 25, 2019

Hazards
  • Extremely flammable liquid and vapour
  • Harmful if swallowed
  • May cause respiratory irritation
  • May cause drowsiness or dizziness
  • May be harmful if swallowed and enters airways
  • May cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure
  • Extremely flammable liquid and vapour
  • Harmful if swallowed
  • May cause respiratory irritation
  • May cause drowsiness or dizziness
  • May be harmful if swallowed and enters airways
  • May cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure

Example 2: Replacement Sheet Not Found

Date

April 21, 2011

May 3, 2021

Guidance

This is an MSDS and does not show hazards according to the Hazardous Products Regulations

This item was discontinued prior to GHS implementation. A GHS Safety Data Sheet is not available for this item.

Example 3: Sheets Updated, Change to Hazards

Date

May 19, 2015

December 4, 2018

Hazards
  • Highly flammable liquid and vapour
  • May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways
  • Causes skin irritation
  • May cause drowsiness or dizziness
  • May cause respiratory irritation
  • Causes eye irritation
  • Highly flammable liquid and vapour
  • May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways
  • Causes skin irritation
  • May cause drowsiness or dizziness
  • May cause respiratory irritation
  • Causes serious eye irritation
  • May cause damage to organs
  • Suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child
  • Very toxic to aquatic life

3) Too often an SDS is obtained for a product that is not in use, while no SDS is available for the one that is. A field check matches the product in use to the SDS to ensure they have the same name, supplier and product code. Consider the following example of 2 products with the same name but different suppliers and very different hazards.


2 Products – Same Name, Different Suppliers 

Supplier

Supplier 1

Supplier 2

Product Name

Hard Surface Cleaner

Hard Surface Cleaner

Key Component

Hydrochloric Acid

Citric Acid

pH

<1

2-3

Hazards
  • Causes severe skin burns
  • Causes serious eye damage 
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Harmful if inhaled
  • Causes serious eye irritation

In this case the sheet in use from Supplier 2 complied with the regulations and is up to date. However, it is not the correct sheet for the product actually in use which is from Supplier 1. Will your employees recognize the error?


A field check ensures your SDS matches the product in use.


4.6 What are the steps to complete my SDS Management program?

3 Steps to Chemical Safety Compliance

We recommend clients follow the Rillea Technologies ACT Framework with our ten step process.

  1. INVENTORY – Inventory chemicals, cosmetics, consumer products, pesticides, drugs and even biological agents.
  2. HAZARD RECOGNITION – Identify hazards using WHMIS SDSs and applicable regulations.
  3. PRIORITIZE – Categorize hazards by Acute and Chronic Health, Physical, and Environmental.
  4. IDENTIFY GAPS – Identify gaps in employee understanding of hazards and safe handling.
  5. ELIMINATE/REPLACE – Eliminate or replace higher risk chemicals.
  6. PROTECT – Protect workers with proper controls and procedures, using PPE as a last defence.
  7. SIMPLIFY – Simplify employee handling instructions for clear, chemical-specific training.
  8. MANAGE – Manage future risk with new chemical selection and procurement.
  9. TRACK – Track supervisor and worker training, chemical inventory, and performance metrics.
  10. SUSTAIN – Sustain knowledge as people, chemicals, and regulations change.

If you'd like to have a walkthrough of the 10 Step Process and how it fits into our ACT framework please contact us.


4.7 Surprising statistics I should know

Since Rillea Technologies was founded in 2016 we've used our technology, SDS RiskAssist, to read more than 30,000 Safety Data Sheets in over 100 different workplaces. During this time we've learned many surprising and interesting statistics from workplaces like yours. For example, a typical workplace has 120 chemical products. That is over 2,500 pages of SDS information. It would take one person 60 hours to read it. Do you want to pay each employee to read SDSs and take the chance that they will do the right thing or would you rather pay your safety expert to provide guidance to employees about how to handle your chemicals, according to your risk tolerance, within your organization?

Read the Hazardous Materials – 10 Things You Don’t Know (But You Should) blog post to find out more.


SDS Management & SDS RiskAssist

5.1 What is SDS RiskAssist?

SDS_RiskAssist_available_online_on_phone_tablet_and_laptop

SDS RiskAssist is a next generation SDS Management and Chemical Safety software that empowers people to make more informed decisions to protect workers. It can be accessed on desktop or mobile devices with an internet connection. Through regular platform updates, guidance about chemical product use is shared across sectors to ensure you stay ahead with best practices and get the most out of WHMIS 2015 or GHS.

This cloud-based SDS Management solution is the only technology that digitizes WHMIS safety data sheets and automatically reads each SDS to extract, organize and flag crucial chemical hazard information at the click of a button.

Our software platform will help you:

  • Unlock Data: SDS information is extracted and organized automatically.
  • Gain Clarity: A summary dashboard shows all your workplace hazards in one place and fast.
  • Take Action: Improve your safety program with informed decision making and built-in employee training.
  • Feel Peace of Mind: Create a safer workplace with less effort and cost.

5.2 How does SDS RiskAssist help manage my SDSs?

Management of safety data sheets has several different objectives that can be broken down depending on job function. Here is a brief overview of how SDS RiskAssist helps workplaces meet their safety objectives:

Managers – Simplify Your Complexity

  • Know The Risks: Dashboard with high level hazard summary
  • Transform Actions: Discover gaps in your chemical safety program.
  • Eliminate Unnecessary Hazards: Find safer chemical substitutes.
  • Regulation Insights: Compare SDS data to applicable regulations.

Supervisors – Know Your Crew's Hazards

  • Establish Control Measures: Add specific workplace instructions.
  • Hazard Overviews: All workplace hazards listed to prioritize actions.
  • Timely Specific Training: Provide tailored chemical specific training.
  • Provide Answers: Confidence to provide correct information.

Workers – Clear Instant Safety Instructions

  • Clear Information: Simple 1-page chemical safety briefs.
  • Specific Work Instructions: Confident worker chemical handling.
  • Protected Appropriately: Employer safe handling directives.
  • E-Binder Everywhere: SDSs available on phone, tablet, or desktop.


5.3 Why is SDS RiskAssist the best in the industry?

SDS RiskAssist Wins 2021 Readers Choice Award COS SDS Management
COS Magazine Readers' Choice 2020 Award
SDS RiskAssist™ 2019 COS Mag Award Winner's Badge SDS Management Solutions

SDS RiskAssist goes beyond where most SDS Management systems stop: worker safety compliance rather than simply document compliance. The software platform exists for those who want more than an SDS binder and are looking to significantly improve their understanding of their workplace's chemical hazards. SDS RiskAssist uses one of a kind technology to read your SDSs and unlock the gold mine of data found within them. The software is user friendly, voted as Canadian Occupational Safety Readers' Choice Award for SDS Management 4 years in a row, and raved about by our current customers. We'd love to give you a software demonstration and show you why it's the best in the SDS management industry.


Our Guide To Chemical Safety Compliance

Read this guide to learn more about how to develop and maintain an accurate record of your workplace chemicals, understand the hazards and harm those chemicals can cause, spot gaps in your chemical safety management program, and close those gaps through specific processes.

Employees use chemical products in workplaces every day but may not be considering the potential consequences and possibility that use of the chemical products may harm them or fall under legal regulations. This is going to change in Ontario as the Occupational Cancer Research Centre is now publishing occupational disease statistics, by sector. Before long, all employers will be having a closer look at the chemicals they manage to ensure they reduce the risk to your employees.


Rillea Technologies Blog

Be sure to visit our blog where you will find regular posts about all things Chemical Safety and SDS management.


Search Rillea's blog and previous posts.