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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?


An SDS is a document that provides important health and safety information for a particular substance. Such a document can include information on the safe handling, use, storage and emergency response of chemicals.

Q: What regulations require that I keep SDSs?


In the U.S. the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) that outline the required elements that must be stated on an SDS.

In Canada SDSs are required for all products meeting any of the standards set out in Part IV of the Controlled Product Regulations (CPR).

Q: Do SDSs expire? Do I need to update them?


Some SDS expire, however, that depends on the local laws of your jurisdiction. Check with your local Occupational Health and Safety law enforcement agencies to determine if the SDSs in your area have an expiry time frame. (Ex. In Canada, under WHMIS 1988, an SDS expires 3 years from its date of preparation).

All SDSs are required to be updated, under specific conditions. This will also vary by jurisdiction. Generally speaking if something about the chemical or the SDS changes then a new copy must be acquired by the company to replace the older one.

Q: What are the penalties for not having my required SDSs?


Penalties vary by jurisdiction and in theory can span from small citations of around $200 up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s important to note that non-compliance with SDS requirements can not only result in immediate fines but can also be used by enforcement officers in building a case to demonstrate general non-compliance to safety laws and lack of due diligence. Ultimately there are a number of factors that contribute to fines and citations that vary by jurisdiction. For specific examples contact your local Health and Safety Enforcement branch.

Q: Can I request SDSs for chemicals that don't need an SDS?


Yes, many chemicals do not fall under the requirements for SDSs or are exempt from workplace SDS requirements but still have SDS made for them. At EZ SDS we will do our best to locate any SDS you request. If we cannot find one because the legislation does not apply or it is exempt we will notify you.

Q: Does online SDS management software meet legal requirements?


Check your local enforcement agencies but most jurisdictions (like the United States and Canada) allow the use of software solutions if certain requirements are met. These usually include:

  1. The SDS must be readily accessible. Therefore employees must be able to easily access the online database at any time. This is usually done through a local computer, smart phone or other means of digital access.
  2. Training must be provided to ensure works know how to access and use the software and hardware necessary to get to the online database. This usually means workers are provided and shown the steps necessary to login to the computer and the online database. Such training materials are freely available once signed up with an EZ SDS package.

  3. Emergency planning and procedures must be in place to ensure adequate backup systems are available.

  4. Hard copies of the SDS must be readily obtainable immediately upon request. With various online and offline print options this is an easy task with EZ SDS.

Q: Is there a difference between MSDS and an SDS?


INo. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) are the same thing. Under the new Global Harmonization System (GHS) the common term “MSDS” has been replaced with “SDS”. Both however, represent the same sheets.

Q: What does an SDS look like?


There is no set format that an SDS must follow. However there are specific requirements for the information that must be included in SDS. Again these may vary from one jurisdiction to another, check your local law enforcement branch for these specifics.

Q: Where do I get an SDS from?


There are a variety of ways you can obtain SDSs

  • You can obtain current SDSs internally by contacting suppliers and manufacturers who must, by law, have the SDSs for their products available.
  • There are also a few free online SDS databases that once registered with you can retrieve SDSs from. However, be cautious as these free online resources have minimal, if any, updating and sorting and most of the sheets are expired, inaccurate or for other jurisdictions. Ensure before downloading any such SDSs that you are collecting the most current copy for your jurisdiction.

  • Or, you can go externally to any number of online databases and safety sheet suppliers like EZ SDS that can provide you current SDSs upon request.

Q: Why do some SDSs look different?


Although the information on the SDSs are regulated by jurisdiction the presentation of the SDS is not and therefore sheets can vary in appearance and presentation. However, with the implementation of the GHS sheets are becoming more standardized.

Q: What chemicals do I need SDSs for?


Laws and regulations change between countries and jurisdiction, check with your local Occupational Health and Safety enforcement agency to determine what chemicals you require SDSs for. For example, in Canada the Controlled Product Regulations (CPR) outline the determining criteria that identify chemicals as needing SDSs. If a chemical meets one of the requirements outlined in the CPRs the company must find a current and accurate SDS.

Q: Why should I use EZ SDS software to manage my inventory?


SDS database management can be costly, using a third party organization can greatly relieve the financial burden, ensure legal compliance and reduce overall costs:

  • Manual SDS inventory management can use up a significant amount of time calling, faxing, emailing and updating binders. A digital system that auto updates can save countless hours by ensuring you always have access to current SDSs.

  • Highly customizable options allow you to create and manage your inventory of sheets however you want. Create sub binders or just tag important sheets to make your inventory easy to sort.

  • Anywhere, anytime access. By leveraging tablet and smart phone technology this system is ideal for on the go workplace like construction companies, transportation agencies, townships and more. This system puts a current SDS binder in the pocked of every worker.

  • Make the complex easy: Diverse workplaces that require multiple binders spread around multiple locations (truck drivers, school boards, hospitals, franchise restaurants, etc…) can benefit from our centralized database. Flexibility and customization allows you to set up access and program management to suit your individual needs.

Q: How do the SDS requirements differ between Canada and the United States?


Canada uses a chemical safety program called the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS). There are a number of minor differences and two major differences:

  • While both the U.S. and Canada require that their SDSs be updated when there is a change to the chemical or health information on the sheet, Canada also requires that sheets be updated as a minimum every 3 years.

  • The second major difference is that the Canadian SDSs require the percent concentrations of their ingredients be disclosed while their U.S. counterparts do not.


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