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Safety sheets become more user friendly

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Images on this pictogram are used in conjunction with the new safety data sheets required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, replacing the older Material Safety Data Sheets. The new standardized layout of the SDS, along with the graphic signifiers will make identifying safety and health related facts and procedures about particular chemicals easier to use. (courtesy graphic)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Images on this pictogram are used in conjunction with the new safety data sheets required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, replacing the older Material Safety Data Sheets. The new standardized layout of the SDS, along with the graphic signifiers will make identifying safety and health related facts and procedures about particular chemicals easier to use. (courtesy graphic)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The decades old rock of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Hazard Communication Standard has reached the end of its effectiveness and is being replaced by the simpler, Safety Data Sheet. The switchover to the single format SDS was announced in 2012 and the final deadline for replacing the MSDS has arrived.

MSDS are documents accompanying hazardous chemicals providing safety information about the particular item. The sheet, which can consist of many pages, warns users about dangerous effects, safe exposure, interactions and health information and first aid procedures.  Handling, storage and disposal instructions are included in the MSDS too, all information useful to those who handle the materials as well as those who respond to emergencies where these things are located.

"It's been dragging along for a while now, but after December everyone should have the SDS format," said Earl Jones, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron supply technician (HAZMART) supervisor.

After December 1, 2015 employers and manufacturers of Hazardous Materials must be in compliance with the Safety Sheet provisions of the new HCS. Three sections of the new document must also contain data consistent with the United Nations globally harmonized system of classification and labeling of chemicals, but OSHA will not enforce the content of these sections because they concern matters handled by other agencies.

The changes were spearheaded by OSHA because the MSDS system was not organized well. The layout of information in the sheets varied from manufacturer to manufacturer as well as among users, sometimes even within the same organization.

"They wanted it standardized so it is easy to find (information)," Jones said. "Now it has the same information in the same section with the same heading."

Besides having data sheets organized in the same way across all users, there is another benefit to the changes. Along with the new format comes a pictogram showing symbols for the various types of hazards applying to specific materials.

Overall the standardized format of the SDS allows quick access and retrieval of information that will be needed in a very short span of time. The everyday user or the person coming into contact with a particular item for the first time will be able to know what to do if something spills on him, if it is inhaled, how to store it or handle it in a
safe manner.

The easier format will prove a big help to first responders, Jones said. In emergency situations where these groups respond, being able to tell quickly what types of material they are dealing with and determining the best, safest way to approach things.

Overall the change to the new format is a good one, Jones said, and it should improve the usefulness of the safety data wherever it is used. Users of various chemicals, from the most seemingly tame cleaners to the most volatile, should have been briefed on the new sheets.

"Hopefully this will carry over to the home, too," said Butch Castillo, 21st Logistics Readiness squadron asset management section chief. "People will be more aware and careful with what they are using around their homes."

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