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ERA's Environmental Compliance Management Blog

Is Shabby SDS Authoring Sabotaging You?

Posted by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

msds authoringSDS (Safety Data Sheets) might just be your environmental team’s biggest weakness.

The race to GHS Compliance has already begun and classification, labelling and SDSs are expecing significant changes.

If you find your business having difficulty getting environmental reports done on time, or it takes a whole squadron of environmental managers to update your material usages and inventory, then it might be time to say goodbye to poorly authored MSDSs and build an SDS Management System.

The problem with old-fashioned MSDSs is that they’re expected to do double duty. A single MSDS is supposed to give the end user all of the information that they will need to safely and responsibly use the product, but it is also designed to protect the supplier’s proprietary product information. The same goes for the new GHS-style SDSs.

Unfortunately, many vendors have little choice but to author vague or unreliable SDSs just to keep their special mixes and chemical compositions to themselves.

However, there’s a frustrating inherent conflict of interests at work in that situation, as the end user doesn’t get the information they need and so become less loyal to the supplier. It’s a lose-lose situation. 

For example, take a look at the MSDS sheet below. The chemical composition ranges don’t provide enough information for an EH&S specialist to create an accurate emissions inventory report. 

Low quality MSDS Authoring can have a huge impact on your environmental compliance reporting.

A typical MSDS sheet provided by a material vendor, with large ranges that lead to poor quality environmental data.

Particularly horrifying is the range for epoxy resin, at > 50%. If you were to do two reports, using the maximum value and a lower value (say, 10%) your reports would be so entirely different that you'd be left wondering which result to accept.

Consequently, what most often happens is that reports default to the highest possible percent value to avoid under-reporting. This means the end result can be the manager inaccurately reports the facility as exceeding emission limits and paying fines.

Ultimately, lousy environmental data management through vague MSDS authoring compromises your environmental compliance reports and jeopardizes your bottom line.

It’s a simple case of garbage in, garbage out.

The sad truth is these practices are completely widespread throughout the world of environmental reporting.

Even though it’s a complicated problem, the solution is actually quite simple: having a strong partnership and open communications with your suppliers can eliminate the root cause of poor MSDS authoring.

Open communication will be especially important during the transition to the Globally Harmonized System of SDS authoring. 

The more your vendors trust you with their private information, the more accurate your chemical data will be. In our experience, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to create a shared SDS and MSDS software platform between your facility and its suppliers, ensuring that data transfer is painless for everyone and the chemical data doesn’t get shared with anyone outside the company.

The new GHS SDS incorporates strict sections and encourages better communication. Don't let your mishandled MSDSs get confused with incoming SDSs.  Leverage the GHS transition to update your SDS Policy and improve your communication with your suppliers. You can learn how to avoid SDSs becoming an obstacle to your environmental data management success,  in our free eBook Redesigning your SDS Management System to Ensure GHS Compliance.


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Topics: SDS, Environmental Compliance & Data Management