Create REACH Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets, GHS, REACH, and Global Human Unity.

Safe­ty Data Sheets are bor­ing tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments you just need for ship­ping and han­dling chem­i­cals. Or at least that is how most peo­ple see them.

I see them dif­fer­ent­ly. When some­one says “SDS” or “Safe­ty Data Sheet” John Lennon’s Imag­ine imme­di­ate­ly starts play­ing in my mind. That’s because I see Safe­ty Data Sheets as beau­ti­ful sym­bols of Glob­al Human Uni­ty. Let me try and explain to you why.

They are about Safe­ty: which trans­lates to con­cern for each oth­er and the sub­text of that is Com­pas­sion. No one wants to see any­one else get hurt. And that sen­ti­ment: keep­ing every­one safe is one we all share. It’s part of what makes us all human. The Unit­ed Nations was itself built upon the sen­ti­ment that keep­ing every­one, and the whole world, safe, was some­thing Human­i­ty as a whole should try to do.

For chem­i­cal sub­stances espe­cial­ly, man­ag­ing and min­i­miz­ing the dan­gers and haz­ards they pose to human health and safe­ty is some­thing that unites us as a species. That’s why at the 1992 Earth Sum­mit the UN declared an Inter­na­tion­al Man­date for a “glob­al­ly har­mo­nized clas­si­fi­ca­tion and com­pat­i­ble label­ing sys­tem, includ­ing mate­r­i­al safe­ty data sheets”.

The GHS SDS: a Template for a Global Safety Data Sheet

It took a while, but by 2003 the UN Sub-Com­mit­tee of Experts on the Glob­al­ly Har­mo­nized Sys­tem of Clas­si­fi­ca­tion and Labelling of Chem­i­cals (UNSCEGHS) pub­lished the first ver­sion of the Glob­al­ly Har­mo­nized Sys­tem of Clas­si­fi­ca­tion and Labelling of Chem­i­cals (GHS). The GHS was designed to lead “to safer con­di­tions for the glob­al pop­u­la­tion and the envi­ron­ment” and ulti­mate­ly gave birth to the mod­ern SDS as we know them today. So thank­ful­ly there is final­ly a glob­al, uni­ver­sal stan­dard­ized glob­al for­mat of 16 basic sec­tions for Safe­ty Data Sheets:

  • Sec­tion 1 Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the sub­stance or mix­ture and of the sup­pli­er
  • Sec­tion 2 Haz­ard iden­ti­fi­ca­tion
  • Sec­tion 3 Composition/information on ingre­di­ents
  • Sec­tion 4 First-aid mea­sures
  • Sec­tion 5 Fire-fight­ing mea­sures
  • Sec­tion 6 Acci­den­tal release mea­sures
  • Sec­tion 7 Han­dling and stor­age
  • Sec­tion 8 Expo­sure controls/personal pro­tec­tion
  • Sec­tion 9 Phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal prop­er­ties
  • Sec­tion 10 Sta­bil­i­ty and reac­tiv­i­ty
  • Sec­tion 11 Tox­i­co­log­i­cal infor­ma­tion
  • Sec­tion 12 Eco­log­i­cal infor­ma­tion
  • Sec­tion 13 Dis­pos­al con­sid­er­a­tion
  • Sec­tion 14 Trans­port infor­ma­tion
  • Sec­tion 15 Reg­u­la­to­ry infor­ma­tion
  • Sec­tion 16 Oth­er infor­ma­tion

*You can buy the whole 530-page GHS Book direct­ly from the offi­cial UN Shop.

Before GHS every region of the world or nation had its own spe­cif­ic legal ver­sion of an SDS. As an exam­ple: the US had the Mate­r­i­al Safe­ty Data Sheet (MSDS) (This was phased out in 2010 in favor of the GHS com­pli­ant SDS.) And each coun­try had its own way of for­mat­ting, clas­si­fy­ing, and com­mu­ni­cat­ing about chem­i­cals and their haz­ards.

Inter­na­tion­al trade was a mess because every coun­try had its own stan­dard to com­ply with. How­ev­er, even though a glob­al­ly stan­dard­ized SDS sys­tem helps “facil­i­tate inter­na­tion­al trade by pro­mot­ing greater con­sis­ten­cy in the nation­al require­ments for chem­i­cal haz­ard clas­si­fi­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion” we, as a species, still aren’t there yet.

Region-specific Safety Data Sheets

The GHS stan­dard for Safe­ty Data Sheets has been adopt­ed by big play­ers like the USA and the EU, but there are still many nations and regions that have dif­fer­ent and even incom­pat­i­ble stan­dards for com­mu­ni­cat­ing chem­i­cal data. I’m not just talk­ing about regions and nations that are GHS SDS late-com­ers. Some coun­tries use the GHS SDS for­mat as a min­i­mum required for­mat and add their own addi­tion­al require­ments!

Con­sid­er France’s sup­ple­men­tary SDS require­ment to iden­ti­fy the use of nano-par­ti­cles. Anoth­er good exam­ple is Cal­i­for­nia Propo­si­tion 65 which requires SDS’s to include car­cino­genic warn­ings. If you used the same warn­ings on an SDS in Ger­many your chem­i­cals would be blocked at the bor­der because in Ger­many car­cino­genic warn­ings are only used for far more dan­ger­ous con­trolled sub­stances. Pre­cise­ly because it is so dif­fi­cult to know what you need on your Safe­ty Data Sheet before you ship your chem­i­cals Caplinq offers its world-renown SDS ser­vice. CAPLINQ can ensure REACH, region­al, and nation­al com­pli­ance by pro­vid­ing Safe­ty Data Sheets in any lan­guage and for any local legal require­ments. CAPLINQ’s ser­vice is real­ly use­ful when you real­ize that you are legal­ly oblig­ed to give any cus­tomer an SDS in their own lan­guage and for­mat when they request one.

The REACH SDS and Human Unity: our Global Future

In the immor­tal words of John Lennon, “you may call me a dream­er, but I’m not the only one”.

GHS was incor­po­rat­ed into EU law via the clas­si­fi­ca­tion, label­ing, and pack­ag­ing of sub­stances and mix­tures reg­u­la­tion (CLP). The EU’s CLP and REACH reg­u­la­tions togeth­er estab­lished the REACH SDS for­mat which builds upon the UN’s basic GHS SDS for­mat. The EU’s REACH SDS for­mat is now being adopt­ed by more and more inter­na­tion­al regions and nations (that export into the EU) as their own legal SDS for­mat. So slow­ly but sure­ly the REACH Safe­ty Data Sheet is spread­ing and becom­ing its own uni­ver­sal lan­guage.

REACH Safe­ty Data Sheets are tru­ly a fas­ci­nat­ing form of glob­al human coop­er­a­tion. I’m con­tin­u­al­ly sur­prised and tru­ly touched that the thing that most unites us as a species isn’t abstract, com­pli­cat­ed, or sub­jec­tive but sim­ply how to stay healthy and safe. When future gen­er­a­tions look back from their hap­py uni­fied future plan­et they will have a spe­cial place in their his­to­ry books for the SDS. Until that day, CAPLINQ will con­tin­ue to help you and your busi­ness meet the petite region­al and nation­al legal stan­dards for SDS for­mat as well as trans­lat­ing them into local lan­guages. So feel free to con­tact us if you need any help.

About Danielle van Noorden

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