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Material Safety Data Sheet… A High Tech Solution

Today’s MSDS programs can be cumbersome, internally managed paper based systems that demand huge administrative resources, but are being replaced by Internet technology in the form of electronic MSDS management. Although MSDS document scanning has been available for a while, a few internet companies are offering fully loaded data bases that are customized to help you update and manage your Hazard Communication Program almost instantaneously and effortlessly.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has clarified guidelines recognizing electronic storage and distribution of MSDS’s as a perfectly good option for replacing hard-copy binders and file cabinets. This has been great news for facilities that are trying to comply with OSHA regulations concerning Hazard Communication. Although this is a great opportunity for managers and safety professionals, when their organization’s compliance, worker safety and reputation are on the line, they need to be sure that the MSDS application they have chosen is right for them. Ask these questions before using this technology:

  • Will this solution meet the accessibility requirements, according to the Hazard Communication Standard? Some database solutions do not meet the Hazard Communication Right-to-Know laws. Compiled databases with generic or specific suppliers’ MSDSs may not meet OSHA’s requirement because they may not have your vendor’s particular and most current MSDS. Fax on demand may not be an option either. If an MSDS can’t be accessed immediately, you won’t be in compliance.
  • Is the system cost effective? Before you purchase any system, consider cost from two angles. Figure out how much your current system is costing based on the use of administration, risk and liability, and how much of that can be reduced using an electronic system? Be sure to consider all costs in this analysis, such as administration, time of employees when retrieving MSDSs, employee safety liability, risk of punitive fines, fines for non-compliance and other hard or soft costs. Second, what is the tradeoff between the benefits offered by a system and the cost of that system? You may choose a comprehensive system that does it all or look for a simpler system at a lower price. Some providers will offer you a system that will allow you to grow in the future. Also, consider the pros and cons of self-maintenance or full service from a provider.

Become proactive, decide what is best for you, and when in doubt concerning compliance, contact OSHA.

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