The first question we are asked about SDSs is around updating the sheets. In fact, most organizations and people are more concerned with how to keep SDSs updated then they are about any health and safety issues when using the product.
What the Regulations Say
WHMIS 1988 stated the following regarding updating data sheets:
When a supplier material safety data sheet is three years old, the employer shall, if possible, obtain from the supplier an unexpired supplier material safety data sheet if any of the controlled product remains in the workplace.
WHMIS 2015 states this:
An employer is required to update 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.
A Guide to the Legislation (WHMIS) Ontario provides these clarifications around updating the SDSs:
Under federal law, it is the supplier’s responsibility to ensure that the SDS for a hazardous product is current and complies with all applicable requirements every time the product is sold.
Suppliers are not required to inform past buyers of a hazardous product that significant new data is available.
“Significant new data” means information about a product that would change its classification … or change the ways to handle the product safely.
What Does This Mean
Under WHMIS 1988 it was clear when a new sheet was required – after 3 years. While this was easier to understand, the time and effort to update the sheets was more than most organizations could handle. With WHMIS 2015, sheets do not expire and if a supplier does not inform you of a change you likely will not know. This should save you time and money as you are not so focused on updating the sheets.
To stay on top of your sheets you will need to know if the sheet complies with WHMIS 2015 and its age. With this information you can look at your collection as follows:
RED – Sheets not in compliance with WHMIS 2015 – replace ASAP
YELLOW – Sheet in compliance but greater than 3 years old – if you are still using the product consider checking for a new sheet. If you are no longer using the product keep the SDS on file but remove it from your active viewing area.
GREEN – Sheet in compliance but less than 3 years old – replace if supplier provides update
To stay on top of this you would need to have a dashboard or overview of your sheets readily available. One customer was tracking this in an Excel spreadsheet. Their score was 4% red, 11% yellow and 85% green.
People who can’t see how they are doing struggle. One customer we looked at had 1,780 sheets. Their sheets were hosted by one of the largest SDS providers with access to millions of data sheets. Yet their score using the above standards was 41% red, 20% yellow and 39% green. And the customer had no information to determine where they stood. We had to count the sheets to provide this overview. A different customer had 288 paper sheets in a binder, but were not tracking date nor type of sheet. When we reviewed their sheets they were 95% RED.
The short is answer is you still need to update your sheets. But like anything you are trying to manage if you want to ensure you have up-to-date sheets you will need to have some measure of performance.
Rillea Technologies is an Ontario-based company providing cloud solutions for organizations interested in proactive chemicals management. Its platform, SDS RiskAssist™, digitizes WHMIS 2015 safety data sheets and reorganizes the data the way chemical safety experts would. The platform instantly prioritizes chemical hazards so that busy safety managers can assess and build clear one-page summaries for managing high and medium-risk chemicals. Employees can access these work instructions via mobile or desktop devices as often as needed, from anywhere in the world. SDS RiskAssist™ has been the recipient of the 2018 and 2019 Readers’s Choice Awards by Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.