Employers must meet new safety data requirement by June 1

by Jacob Monty

Employers need to be ready for a new requirement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that changes the format of safety data related to chemicals in the workplace.

OSHA is replacing its material safety data sheet (MSDS) requirement with a more uniform document called the safety data sheet (SDS). The deadline for employers to comply is June 1.

The move to the SDS came about because of a worldwide initiative to promote standard criteria for classifying chemicals. The initiative, called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), seeks to classify chemicals by their hazards and communicate hazard information on labels and SDSs. The GHS was developed as part of an international effort to achieve key goals, including enhancing the protection of people and the environment, reducing redundant and costly testing and evaluation, and facilitating international chemical trade.

The most noticeable difference between MSDSs and SDSs is the new format. The information on MSDSs and SDSs is largely the same. However, to promote uniformity and ease of conveying important information, all SDSs will follow a general format.

Employers must replace their MSDSs with SDS-formatted documents before June 1 or be in violation of the new regulations. Fines for noncompliance range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, and the amount may be left to the discretion of the OSHA investigator assigned to the case.

To ensure compliance, employers are advised to first conduct a full chemical audit and identify any compliance gaps, such as the presence of a chemical in the workplace they don’t have an MSDS for. After conducting the audit and identifying any gaps, employers must retrieve SDSs for chemicals in their workplace. Employers should document when and how they requested or attempted to retrieve applicable SDSs. If an employer doesn’t have all the required SDSs during an OSHA inspection, it must be able to show due diligence in attempting to obtain them.

For more information on OSHA’s new requirement, see the April issue of Texas Employment Law Letter.

Jacob Monty is an attorney with Monty & Ramirez LLP in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at