Safety Data Sheet (SDS) Access
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Hi, I'm Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA inspector and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards. For this series we're at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in the heart of the upper Midwest to show you, no matter where you work, safety is for everyone.
One of the more important parts of the Hazard Communication Law is ensuring safety data sheets are accessible to employees. So for example, if any employee has an exposure to a hazardous substance, let's say they inhaled a chemical or had exposure to their skin and they need access to the SDS for that product so they can read the first aid treatment recommendations. Additionally, if they need medical treatment, that SDS needs to accompany the employee to the medical provider so the provider knows how to treat them. That means SDSs need to be available during working hours and without barriers.
The Hazard Communication Law specifically states SDSs must be readily accessible to employees, and that means whether they're stored electronically or on paper. SDSs can't be stored behind a locked door that only certain people have access to, or in a box on the wall with a lock on it, or with a supervisor that you have to ask permission to get to them, or in an electronic system that's so password protected that no one can get to them, or so borrowed in an electronic system that you'd need special knowledge on how to reach them. That's not access.
Today I have with me, Brandy, the safety director here at the Beet Sugar Cooperative. Brandy I'm wondering how do you make SDSs available? What sort of forms do you store them in here?
Sure, we've got 'em in two forms. One is the paper format, one's the electronic. We keep 'em here in a location just off their break room. It's an unlocked door so from a paper format we've got that covered. We also have our electronic system, also located in the same room with a known passcode, so they know to type in exactly how to access it. Then we keep the icon on the desktop and it's in the shape of a NFPA diamond so we teach in our training-
What to look for.
What to look for. We've also put that symbol or that icon on pretty much every computer in the factory so you can access it in the boiler house, you can access in the control rooms, in a lab or any other computer based system out there.
We also have seasonal work which brings our employees out to our pile grounds, to 13 separate outside pile grounds and before each season starts we evaluate the chemicals on site, pull together the paper format and keep that in our scale houses.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Wonderful. So how do your employees find them when they need them. Do you do some sort of training where you're teaching them, this is how you find one of these?
We do hands on training for our electronic system, but the paper system, I continue to tell the guys, it's a little bit hard because it might me filed under M for mobile oil or O for oil. It just depends on who filed it and how their thinking was. But the beauty of the electronic system is you can basically search, just like a Google search bar, whatever topic you want to put in and it should bring up those related safety data sheets to pick from.
And so you make that training on how to access them part of your Hazard Communication training that you do?
Okay, wonderful. So can you explain some of the other reasons why an employee would need fast access to an SDS, just to give our audience an idea and reminder why this is so important to have access and that it be quick.
Yes and preventative, I'm gonna go ahead of that question, preventative wise here's access when you're planning your job, make sure you know what you're doing, but God forbid you don't or there's an incident, certainly from a first aid perspective, fast information is going to be best. From a spill response, from a fire, any of those emergency situations where you have a chemical involved, the quicker you have knowledge, the better the outcome should be.
Right. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us.
Have you ensured your SDSs are accessible to your employees and do your employees know how to find them and why they would need them?
I hope you gained a safety skill today. If you know someone who needs this, go ahead and pass it on, safety is everyone's business.