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As the second most common OSHA violation, most businesses already have the Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) on their radar. Each office should have at least one staff member who understands the requirement to keep safety data for products both “readily available” and “up to date” in a work area regularly used by employees.

This particular requirement is surrounded by confusion and most offices are stuck using archaic methods for managing Safety Data Sheets (SDS), which ends up costing more than they think.


Let’s start by clearly outlining what is required to be done with regard to SDSs for OSHA compliance. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure chemical safety in the workplace by making information and hazards of the chemicals on site easy to find and accurate. This puts two main responsibilities on businesses: (1) keeping an organized SDS library that employees understand how to navigate and (2) making sure that library has the most up-to-date SDSs available.

It’s important to understand that the safety data library must be specific to the business. OSHA has been clear that having employees search online for an SDS when an accident occurs doesn’t cut it, nor does it work to buy a book of SDSs for common industry products. Offices need to have their own library, with the SDSs from all of the products purchased and used in their specific workplace. SDS libraries also cannot be kept behind locked doors or passwords.

Staying Compliant When Managing SDSs

Most commonly, businesses meet this regulation by assigning a staff member to maintain an SDS or HazCom binder. Binders can work, but here’s the trick: SDSs change. Product formulas are altered, new research can identify hazards for chemicals that were previously thought harmless, and newly introduced regulations can impact the way safety data is required to be formatted. This greatly complicates managing a binder.

A common misconception is that suppliers of products are required to automatically send updated sheets as they come. In fact, OSHA compliance only requires suppliers to send an updated SDS when you order a product or when you request one. Some distributors and suppliers go above and beyond the requirements, but not all do.

Reduce Risks & Avoid Hidden Costs

The biggest hidden cost is in direct and indirect staff costs. For example, to be compliant with your SDSs, you must regularly contact manufacturers to obtain the most current one. You must keep them organized and readily available. If your staff is doing it right, they are likely spending, on average, at least 3 hours per week. How much do you pay that staff? What aren’t they doing because they are spending time dealing with SDSs? This brings us to the third cost of compliance.

Opportunity cost is the revenue you lose because an employee is spending time on something else. Some businesses have professional level employees manage SDSs. Ouch! Talk about high opportunity costs! This happens because of a lack of understanding of what it takes to be truly compliant.

Cost Effective Compliance Solution

The fact is, OSHA compliance is the cost of doing business. But, if you aren’t careful, it could be costing you more than it needs to. With today’s technology, there are cost-effective ways to be truly compliant. One such way is through Total SDS, Global Safety Management’s cloud services are designed to make compliance easy and affordable. We encourage you to learn more about these innovative services by visiting or by contacting GSM at 844-GSM-INFO.