Auto-Indexing of SDS Data by Chemical Safety Solves Struggle that has Spanned Decades

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Auto-Indexing of SDS Data by Chemical Safety Solves Struggle that has Spanned Decades

Companies with hazardous chemicals have been struggling for decades with obtaining and maintaining detailed chemical safety information from Safety Data Sheets (SDS) that can be utilized to manage chemicals more effectively; this effort has now been dramatically and positively impacted. Chemical Safety Software ( has introduced game changing AI technology to scan SDS to extract and index GHS, hazard, storage, classification and other critical information that is then uploaded straight into a digital library of SDS and can be used to properly classify and report based on chemical characteristics.

When hazardous materials arrive on the receiving dock, one of the very first actions that must be taken is to ensure that an SDS for that product or chemical is readily available. If the product has been on site before, it’s just a quick check to make sure there is a copy in a binder or in an online system. Although electronic sharing of SDS documents has transformed the management of SDS documents, entities are faced with yet another challenge: how will all the data points in the SDS like product identifiers, chemical characteristics and hazard information be found and entered in the chemical database?

The bottleneck starts when there isn’t an SDS on site and one needs to be obtained. Yes, it’s an easy call to the manufacturer or an online look up for a .pdf or paper copy, but what happens to that electronic copy once it is obtained? Does it get printed to be added to a binder later or does it stay attached to an email? The SDS is an integral part of all safety plans and an SDS that exists outside of the safety process is a potential failure point.

SDS are required for companies that have any hazardous chemicals on site that are used in the workplace. Originally, SDS were “hard copy” meaning several sheets of paper, often photocopied and illegible. Sent from the manufacturer, SDS could be faxed and now can be emailed or shared across a drive as a .pdf. Gone are the days of file cabinets full of expired of SDS and three ring binders; and professionals welcome the electronic management of SDS. (Still managing a binder of SDSs? Go digital)

The Struggle

Professionals responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDS know that just getting the copy of the SDS isn’t enough, especially if you are responsible for keeping track of the site’s chemical inventory and regulatory reporting.  Environmental Health and Safety professionals need access to the data elements within the SDS, not just a hard copy of the SDS. Often, there is a desire to search for data components within an SDS, such as hazard information or specific chemicals. To isolate data elements within an SDS, they must be “indexed”. Indexing is a process that is used to map data from the SDS to specific fields in a database. Typically, a data entry technician, sometimes with chemical or hazardous materials background, but often not, would methodically transcribe the data from the paper or .pdf copy into the fields in the database. According to OSHA there are over 80 mandatory pieces of data that must be included in an SDS (see 29 CRF 1910.1200 Appendix D). Entering each of those fields is a time-consuming process with no guarantees to be error free. Just entering hazard and precautionary statements from the composition section of an SDS can be treacherous!

The Solution

To ease the pain of SDS entry, many software companies offer a service to enter the SDS for you by hiring humans all over the globe to enter data. Chemical Safety is introducing something new to the industry that is a game changer. Using technology to scan the SDS coupled with the knowledge that SDS are required to have the same data in the same sections, character reading technology has been coupled with computer learning techniques to let the software “read” the SDS and “map” or index the data to corresponding fields in the database. This functionality is now available in the Chemical inventory module of the Chemical Safety Environmental Management Systems (EMS) software. Not only does this functionality save significant time, but it also dramatically increases the accuracy of the data.

When the data elements of an SDS, such as GHS data or the chemical name, are entered into a database, searching becomes a breeze. The SDS or any of its composition can be found by searching by brand, chemical classification, hazard class, flammability and many more data elements that can be selected in the search criteria.

Data from an SDS is used for more than just training and emergency response. Access to data elements of the SDS aids in accurately tracking inventory, regulatory reporting and permit compliance. Most services index less than 10 data points, but with SDS reading technology, more than fifty critical fields are indexed, opening up a world of possibilities for forecasting and reporting.

In the OSHA Brief titled “Hazard Communication Standard; Safety Data Sheets”, the employers’ responsibilities are outlined, but how to achieve those responsibilities is not. Employers must ensure that the SDSs are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. This may be done in many ways. Chemical Safety’s SDS technologies are available online and on mobile devices. OSHA states that as SDS can be kept in a binder or on computer systems as long as the employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area when needed and a back-up is available for rapid access in the case of an emergency. What is not addressed by OSHA is how challenging sourcing, managing, and keeping SDS up to date can be. It is essential to create and maintain a process for SDS management using technology and software as the foundation to avoid the time-consuming process of searching for and updating SDS.

Contact the hazardous materials professionals at Chemical Safety for a demonstration of Chemical Safety’s extensive indexing technology that is changing the way the industry thinks about SDS management.  Contact us at or submit a demo request.

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