Hazard Communication Standards have been around for decades. Understanding what’s required is a headache for many companies.

Here are some common questions about OSHA’s requirements for maintaining and providing access to internal Safety Data Sheets (SDSs):

Can we store SDSs electronically?
Yes, OSHA allows you to store SDSs electronically. This means maintaining them on a company website or platform. It’s not acceptable to require employees to perform an internet search to view or obtain the SDS. Employees must be trained to use the electronic system. Not all may have access. That is why we maintain hard copies.

What does “readily accessible” mean?
OSHA says that SDSs must be readily accessible to employees during each work shift when they are in their work area. There’s no “distance” requirement, but employees must know the location of SDSs and there must be no barrier to employee access, such as having to ask a supervisor for an SDS or keeping the SDSs in a locked cabinet. If SDSs are kept electronically, employees must be trained to use the system. A binder with the hard copies is also acceptable and common.

How often do SDSs have to be updated?
If the chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer becomes aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical, or ways to protect against the hazards, they must add it to the SDS within three months. If the chemical is not currently being produced or imported, the chemical manufacturer or importer must add the information to the SDS before the chemical is introduced into the workplace again.

How do I know if I have the most current SDS for a chemical?
OSHA says that if you’re maintaining the most recent SDS you received with the shipment of a hazardous chemical, you’re in compliance. If you didn’t receive one, contact the manufacturer, importer, or distributor and request one.

If we have a product like gasoline or paint, can we use any company’s SDS?
No, OSHA requires that the SDS be specific to the product and manufacturer.