Effective, compliant and up-to-date hazard communication documents — especially Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) — are both a global requirement and a critical centerpiece for effective product stewardship practices throughout the product lifecycle. Unfortunately, tracking international chemical regulatory guidelines and providing accurate and compliant hazard communication has never been more complex.

An advanced MSDS authoring software system can provide the tools necessary to effectively manage the complexities of gathering accurate data, applying international chemical regulatory directives and guidelines, and issuing reliable hazard communication documentation for both in-house and international users.

Here’s what to look for when choosing an authoring system:

1. Best of breed and single source: all authoring systems are not created equal. Choose one which offers best-in-class software, data, content, services and support from a single source to streamline your authoring process. Probe the origins of the regulatory data content. Does the authoring system provider source this from a third party or does the same company also source and develop the regulatory content in the data feed? You will want to deal directly with the experts if you have any questions regarding the data. There is risk in working with a platform that depends on partnership between the software provider and the content provider.

2. Look for ample HazCom document templates. Choose a system which fully supports the vast range of hazard communication, classification and labeling directives. Ensure that all of the countries in which you conduct business are supported so you can generate all required MSDSs and label documents.

3. It’s all about the data. Your MSDS is only as good as the data that’s on it. Choose a solution that offers integrated regulatory data from a reliable data source.

4. Don’t forget about phrases. An authoritative phrase and glossary library provides a broad repository from which to draw during the authoring of MSDSs and labels, and the execution and creation of rules.

5. Calculations and classifications. The system you select should offer reliable automatic calculations and classification systems, including:
  • EU classification algorithms to automate the classification and labeling assessments required by EU regulations.
  • GHS classifications to support the full GHS classification and labeling directive outlined within the 2007 edition of the UN GHS. It is important that country-specific adaptations of the building blocks and document templates are supported as well (e.g. EU, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China).
  • A transport classification system is also particularly useful in determining and assigning transport information to product and raw material mixtures such as hazard class, packing group and proper shipping name determinations.
  • Automatic mixture assessments and regulatory analysis is critical. Other mixture-level assessments and classifications are made for dozens of data points based on substance-level data obtained through the chemical regulatory updates and available empirical raw material data.
  • Material assessment audit trail can provide an at-a-glance review of automatic mixture determinations. The log should display the results and logic for all of the automatic mixture calculations and classifications for any given material. This information should be archived to support the information presented on any version of the MSDSs.
6. Follow the rules. Your system should offer standard rules for the automated generation of the material data displayed on MSDSs and other documents. However, the system should also enable rules editing and the creation of custom rules.

7. Support for emerging regulatory frameworks, such as REACH and GHS, for example. Also choose a tool that employs algorithms to accommodate the requirements outlined in the GHS.

8. Simplify formulation management. Your new solution should be able to help manage product formulations as well. Some of the more popular authoring systems offer a variety of methods for doing this, including:
  • Employing a nested ingredient algorithm to traverse through a product’s hierarchy and find the eventual base level ingredients.
  • Automatic formula acquisition. The solution should be able to act as the point of entry for formulations or enable formulations to be automatically acquired via a direct interface to your ERP or R&D systems.
  • Trade secret and disclosure management. The system you choose should use disclosure logic to determine the ingredients to be disclosed. The logic should be based on the regulatory requirements for the region that the document serves.
  • Before-reaction and after-reaction compositions. The solution should offer composition structures for the management of both before-reaction compositions (BRC) and after-reaction compositions (ARC).
  • Formulation history should be tracked for every mixture (raw material or product) to review changes over time and determine the former state of a formulation at any point in time.
9. Look for alternate trade name management features. With these features, MSDSs and other HazCom documents may be generated with any number of commercial names based on a single common material source. This many-to-one relationship allows the user to maintain a single data source while generating any number of unique MSDSs from that same source of data with varying commercial names.

10. Batch processing is a valuable time saver. Look for a solution that allows users to perform tasks in a batch manner.

11. Go global. The solution you choose should provide a multi-language library of standard authoring phrases, as well as a multi-language graphical user interface (GUI) to support a truly global authoring staff.

12. MSDS management, distribution and ER. In addition to being a complete MSDS authoring and chemical regulatory system, the system you choose should provide capabilities for the management of inbound raw material vendor MSDSs. You should be able to associate any number of vendors to a single material so that MSDSs are readily available for all suppliers of a particular raw material. Ideally, the solution vendor should also be able to provide MSDS distribution, MSDS management, and emergency response services.