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September 19, 2013
New program credentials those who prepare safety data sheets

With some provisions of the revised hazard communication standard set to take effect in December, employers need to prepare for compliance with new safety data sheet (SDS, formerly MSDS) requirements. A unique program is intended to improve the quality of the data sheets employers—and employees—rely on.

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Keep reading to learn what’s involved and how this new credentialing program could reduce risk for your workers.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), AIHA Registry Programs, and Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC) have partnered on the effort. It provides individuals with a credential and enters them into a registry as qualified specialists in writing SDSs and labels. The program is known as the SDS and Label Authoring Registry.

According to registry manager Angela Oler, some individuals may already have the training and experience to meet the eligibility requirements. This can be determined through a qualifications worksheet. Those in need of additional education can use a free study guide to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. These and other materials are available online at the website http://www.aiharegistries.org. Enter “SDS registry” in the search box.

Oler says anyone can sit for the required exam, “as long as they meet the basic eligibility requirements and feel they are competent against the program’s body of knowledge.” The application process can be done online and costs about $100. There is a separate fee for the examination.

Are your workers trained on the new 16-section SDS format? Check out our GHS and Hazard Communication resource center for essential training materials, checklists, and more.

She notes that the transition from the familiar MSDS to the new, globally harmonized 16-section SDS is significant. This first-of-its-kind registry will offer an easy way for employers or customers to identify those who are skilled and capable in preparing SDSs.

Scientific information meets clear communication

SDSs help employees and employers determine if the chemicals they’re working with are hazardous and, if so, what precautions should be taken. It’s long been recognized that the effectiveness of hazard communication depends on the authors of data sheets. The task requires a thorough knowledge of chemistry, toxicology, personal protective equipment (PPE), and design and engineering controls.

This essential information must be effectively communicated to workers who lack the specialized knowledge. According to the AIHA Registry Programs, “the demand for this unique combination of skills exceeds the supply, forcing many companies to assign their chemical labeling and SDS authoring duties to employees who have little relevant experience or education.”

When employers rely on SDSs supplied by manufacturers, importers, or distributors, the employer is not liable for their accuracy as long as they have accepted the SDS in good faith—for example, without blank spaces or obvious inaccuracies. Employers should report inaccurate or missing information on an SDS to the chemical manufacturer or distributor.

Employers who change or reformulate the composition of a chemical will be held responsible by OSHA for an SDS’s accuracy. Employers are not required to classify chemicals unless they choose not to rely on the classification performed by the chemical manufacturer or importer for the chemical.

Creators of the registry believe that employers that turn to registered SDS authors can feel confident that they will get high-quality data sheets that comply with the new requirements.

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