Q & A: Do You Need a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for That?

Q & A: Do You Need a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for That?

Question: Do chain retailers, such as grocers or automotive stores, need to have SDS’s for merchandise that they sell? And more specifically, does the retailer need to make them available to their employees—those employees who are stocking shelves or otherwise have exposure?

Answer: Yes. If those products on the shelves meet the definition of ‘hazardous’ found in the hazard communication law, 1910.1200 (d)-(d)(3)(ii). OSHA has 14 letters of interpretation on .1200(d) alone.

While there are many interpretations written about chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, etc., there is very little written beyond nuance. Here is one such interpretation where this situation is buried among other SDS questions, as it relates to manufacturers and importers…

“The HCS (hazard communication standard) provides workers exposed to hazardous chemicals with the right to know the identities and hazards of those chemicals, as well as appropriate means to protect themselves from adverse health effects. This is to be accomplished by having a hazard communication program in each covered facility, with labels on containers of such hazardous materials, more detailed information in the form of material safety data sheets, and employee training programs.”

Again, the focus here is what meets the definition of “hazardous chemical” or “hazardous substance”. These are defined as follows: “Any chemical that poses either a physical hazard (such as flammability) or a health hazard (such as causing damage to the skin or eyes) is covered by the rule.”

Here's more on the question from OSHA:

Do you need to keep MSDSs for commercial products such as "Windex" and "White-Out"?

OSHA does not require that MSDSs be provided to purchasers of household consumer products when the products are used in the workplace in the same manner that a consumer would use them, i.e.; where the duration and frequency of use (and therefore exposure) is not greater than what the typical consumer would experience. This exemption in OSHA's regulation is based, however, not upon the chemical manufacturer's intended use of his product, but upon how it actually is used in the workplace. Employees who are required to work with hazardous chemicals in a manner that results in a duration and frequency of exposure greater than what a normal consumer would experience have a right to know about the properties of those hazardous chemicals.

Now that the question is answered, what is the best practice for employers in this situation?

  1. Start with an audit of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to identify gaps between product and documentation, beginning with the most hazardous substances, if known.
  2. Reconcile the problem of missing sheets by contacting chemical manufacturers or other affiliate sites in your organization.
  3. Establish a database of SDSs that is accessible to employees in the organization: Vivid SDS Online
  4. Revisit both Hazard Communication training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training, along with spill response protocol.
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