This interview from ECHA describes what sounds like an very interesting development, particularly for those who read Dutch. I don't, so I haven't been able to assess the tool yet, but an English version is in development...
Will this tool change safety data sheets?
Have you ever read a safety data sheet (SDS) and wondered whether it has all the information, or maybe even found it hard to understand? A new online tool has been developed that checks whether SDSs contain the right information and sends feedback to suppliers.
We interviewed Mr Nathan Kuper, Dangerous Substances Expert at the Dutch Labour Inspectorate (Inspectie SZW), and asked what benefits the tool will bring to downstream users of chemicals and mixtures.
The VIB check tool gives users a better idea of whether their safety data sheets (SDSs) are complete and meet the main requirements under REACH and CLP about health and safety at work.
The tool runs through a series of simple questions that help users check their SDSs. Do they, for example, say if safety equipment is needed? Do they contain correct information about the hazard classification of the chemicals? By answering these types of questions, users can easily see whether their SDSs contain what they need. And if they do not, users are asked to notify their suppliers by sending an email through the tool.
Improving safety data sheets
Looking at the tool, it quickly becomes clear that it is simple to use. It uses a simple language aimed at people who may use chemicals, but who do not need to have a full understanding of the properties of chemicals to run their core business. One example could be painters, but the tool is also useful for other SMEs.
‰??In the Dutch Labour Inspectorate we checked with some downstream users to find out whether they have safety data sheets and whether they were reading them at all. It turned out that most safety data sheets are still not being read ‰?? people get them, but they don‰??t read them,‰?? says Mr Kuper.
‰??We also checked the safety data sheets and concluded that not all the information was always present and that, in some cases, the information was not understandable. This is why we decided to create something easily accessible and intended for people who struggle to process the information,‰?? he continues.
Asking the users
Manufacturers can make the products, but only the users of the chemicals know what is going on when the chemicals are actually being used, Mr Kuper argues. ‰??We have seen safety data sheets indicating that painters should use an emergency shower or eye wash unit when they use a certain paint, but painters obviously don‰??t carry around emergency showers. This is just one example of information that just doesn‰??t really make any sense for the target group.‰??
The challenge is to get people to read the SDSs and to point out when there is something wrong with the information. ‰??There is a need for more information to float upstream from the users. That‰??s why the VIB check tool allows users to give feedback and point out what is missing. Users can fill in a checklist and give feedback to suppliers on the quality of the safety data sheets when they have finished the check on the VIB website,‰?? Mr Kuper explains.
Thinking about the audience
In Mr Kuper‰??s view, the spotlight should be on the usability and comprehensibility of SDSs and not only on their quality and correctness. ‰??In a safety data sheet, there is a lot of information that is not easy to understand for the user.
We need to change that and have the audience in mind when creating them. The quality is good, but the usability is bad. When it comes to things like personal safety protection at the workplace, it is essential that people can understand what the safety data sheet says,‰?? Mr Kuper points out.
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