The production of a document that’s as key as a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) can be a complex affair.

    In order to satisfy its function, an SDS needs to satisfy a range of requirements: from accurate, GHS-compliant hazard communication, to clearly understandable content and language, and the correct procedures to implement in the case of a spill or human exposure.

    Part of the challenge of the production of a sufficiently well-written SDS is that it involves a degree of collaboration between the supplier who will have produced the substance or mixture, and the company using, storing or otherwise employing the substance. The specificity of the chemicals directly correspond to the safety measures that need to be taken, and as such, directly affect the accuracy of the SDS document.

    This article will attempt to outline the specific challenges, or pain-points, that should be taken into account when producing an SDS, as well as suggesting practical ways in which to overcome these challenges. 

    Production Pains


    The groundwork of drafting and composing your document can be a significant burden on a company.

    A company that produces hazardous goods needs to take into account the size and formats that are required under regulator requirements (OSHA in the case of the United States) and strive for regularity in their production process.

    Depending on the scope and scale of the company’s operations, the amount of SDSs required can vary from a handful to well into the thousands. These individual documents need to be produced smoothly whenever a new substance or mix arrives at the facility.

    The burden of producing these invariably tends falls upon whichever company employee or role-holder in the company who is charged with general health and safety requirements. Often, this role-holder will work with a small set of templates and produce the best document they can.

    The issue with this type of production process is that it tends to be:

    • Time consuming: taking up valuable employee time with repeated compositions.
    • Prone to error: relying on human composition in repeated process will produce mistakes and potential non-compliance.
    • Organisational demands: there is a need to implement a system for producing SDSs, which can be hard to enforce across a range of team members and facility locations.

    flash.pngPain-Point Solution: By engaging an automated solution, the task of compiling and producing SDSs is made substantially easier and more reliable.

    The solution provided by ERA ensures that all stored SDS documentation and labels are kept completely up to standard, with the correct format being consistently applied across all documentation.

    Use of a solution such as the SDS viewer allows an employee on the end-user side to quickly locate and produce a fully compliant document, which the administrative view allows for easy and rapid assessment of the fundamentals of any existing SDS stored in the system.

    This automated solution ultimately allows for far smoother, more accurate and faster SDS production process, freeing up employee time and delivering compliant results again and again.

    Vendor Partnership


    The need to have clear and concise information on exactly what is contained within the products utilized with your facility (or facilities) cannot be overstressed.

    In order for an SDS to be accurate, it must be informed as to the actual contents of the container it is assigned to.

    In the past, in both the United States and Canada, concerns around the disclosure of proprietary information have often plagued SDS authoring, with vague or merely indicative content amounts (e.g. < 50%) of certain chemicals sometimes having been provided by the chemical vendor.  

    This is a corrosive arrangement, and can affect the accuracy of any produced SDSs, potentially undermining efforts of first-responders in the case of an emergency situation occurring by starving the SDS Authoring process of accurate chemical amounts.

    flash.pngPain Point Solution: By engaging a solution that is informed by an established vendor partnership program, the absolute best balance between proprietary protection and safety-based accuracy will be automatically worked into your documentation.

    At ERA, we’ve developed an extensive partnership program with a wide range for paint, coating and chemical producers. This program ensures that the exact composition and product specifications for each supplied product is already pre-programmed into your SDS solution when any specific SDS is selected for production.

    One of the most attractive aspects of this program is that it moves responsibility for listing the correct contents of the container back to the producer, the sole organisation that produced the product in the first place. Such a move is highly popular with ERA’s clients, allowing them to author with complete confidence with the material at hand. 

    Master Chemical List


    The sheer range of chemicals that are used across manufacturing and in industrial processes can stretch into the thousands.

    These can be employed for a range of uses, and combined uses, that are similarly vast. Keeping track of the nature and regulatory status of each and every one of these chemicals within your production process can be a gargantuan task – yet the safety classification of individual chemicals, and their percentages must be assessed in the production of any SDS.

    It is an immense challenge for a manufacturer to keep track of all chemicals that are involved in their processes, but one that producers must rise to.

    flash.pngPain-Point Solution: By subscribing to a master database which is updated on a regular basis, you can ensure that your SDS authoring has access to the very latest regulatory information for any chemical required.

    ERA Environmental offer access to our Master Chemical List as standard in our SDS Authoring solution, giving you instant access to over 100,000 chemicals and their current status in both federal and state legislation. Any changes or re-designations will be automatically fed into your authoring process, ensuring that the documentation you produce is always up-to-date.

    Overall GHS Compliance


    The need for GHS compliance in your SDS Authoring and label creation processes is absolutely essential for business based both in the United States and Canada. Both countries have fully committed to this international safety standard, with Canada having applied a June 2017 deadline for compliance with the legislation that empowers the GHS.

    It is both practical and recommended for companies to ensure that as much of their documentation as possible is lined up with this globally accepted system; which provides a very strong basis for accident prevention and international recognition.

    The practical benefits of the system are backed up by considerable research, and it’s become expected within industries that handle hazardous goods that this system be generally employed.

    flash.pngPain-Point Solution: By automating adherence at every level of your authoring process, GHS compliance will be built into your documentation from the very beginning. ERA’s SDS Authoring software is automatically set up to deliver both documents and labels in compliance with the size dimensions, symbol types, placard sizes and other requisites of the GHS system.


    The above are just some of the pain-points that must be negotiated when authoring a Safety Data Sheet. While bearing these points in mind and individually negotiating each one during every authoring process is solution – the automated aspect of a software solution such as ERA’s offering will allow for a far smoother process, swifter production, better vendor cooperation, accurate chemical designations and overall GHS compliance.


    This Blog was Co-Authored By: 


    Lorcan Archer
    Post by Lorcan Archer
    December 14, 2016
    Lorcan is a science writer and journalist with ERA.