OSHA recently published a final regulation that requires manufacturers, distributors, importers, and employers to make changes to their Material Safety Data Sheets (SDS) pursuant to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) by June 2015. Failure to follow the new regulation may expose companies to OSHA fines up to $70,000 per violation, and to litigation from end users or other parties in the supply chain.

The new regulations require SDS to follow a consistent, standardized 16-section format. Manufacturers and importers also are required to classify chemicals to determine the hazard class and subcategory into which they fall (i.e., skin corrosion/irritation; serious eye damage/eye irritation; reproductive toxicant). Testing is not required in order to classify chemicals, but the “full range of available scientific literature and other evidence concerning potential hazards” must be considered. Labels must include a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category.

Five questions to consider in evaluating an SDS:

  • Was the new mandatory 16-section SDS format used as a checklist?
  • Should the SDS be updated when product formulations change, and coordinate with SDS authors to timely update the SDS?
  • Are distributors who substitute their name for the manufacturer on SDS held responsible for the accuracy of that information?
  • Are any alterations being made to a manufacturer’s SDS (particularly alterations that could be interpreted as downplaying product risks or use and exposure precautions)?
  • It there a clear record documenting delivery of SDS to customers, including each new iteration or version of an SDS?

With over a million chemicals requiring new SDS, downstream users should anticipate a lag in the supply chain and may want to inquire about their vendors’ SDS transition plans to ensure timely compliance with the HCS. Each party in the supply chain has specific responsibilities and may be impacted differently by the regulations. Knowing your company’s SDS responsibilities will help you implement tailored precautions to reduce your regulatory and litigation risk.