Since its inception through to present day, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) has evolved, mostly for convenience, into a document that provides data in greater detail than the standard requires. And many more changes are in store, as OSHA plans to finalize its proposed rule to modify the current Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to conform to the UN Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for classification and labeling of chemicals.
The proposed GHS-specific revisions include both philosophical and tactical changes to hazard communications, which have far-reaching implications for MSDS authoring, publishing, distribution and management of labels. Downstream users of hazardous materials will face a significant employee training/re-training requirement, as new classification terminology, risk and safety determinations, hazard symbols, and product labels will be subject to change. Increasing the difficulty will be an estimated three-year transition period in which both the older MSDS versions (non-GHS compliant) and newer GHS compliant versions will be acceptable for use.