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Do You Want Your Employees to Read the SDS?

Written by: Rob Hallsworth

Published on: 8 January 2018

Providers of online WHMIS education claim that their program will help employees to:

“recognize hazardous materials, gather additional hazard information, and learn how to safely store, use and handle these items”

They do it by teaching people to read the Safety Data Sheets or SDS. For a small amount of money and an hour of time employees can be taught how to use the SDS to protect themselves.

Consider the Time Required

Is the best way to communicate chemical safety information having employees read all the SDSs for the products they come in contact with?

Let’s think about that a bit more. The average person reads 200 words a minute and retains about 60% of what they read. For technical information (like an SDS) the reading rate drops to 50-75 words per minute. Again at 60% retention rate. An average SDS contains 3,500 words. At 75 words a minute it would take a typical person 45 minutes to read an SDS. And they would only retain 60% of what they read.

If you have 100 products with SDSs, it would take an employee 78 hours (or 2 weeks) to read all the sheets. If you have 100 employees it would take 7,800 hours or 4 person years for everyone to read every sheet. Not very practical! Plus, as we  have discussed in earlier blogs, many SDSs don’t contain the information employees need to handle chemicals safely. How will they have their questions answered? Will they ask their supervisor? Will the supervisor have the answers?

What if Employees Didn’t Need to Read the SDS?

Imagine a simple 100-word summary of the hazards and company instructions on how to safely use the product. An employee could read this in 30 seconds (at 200 words per minute as technical jargon has been removed)  -without their attention wavering.

To read all 100 summaries would take under an hour. All 100 employees could read all 100 summaries in 80 hours – 2 person weeks.

Yes, it would take some time to create the summaries. But with Rillea Technologies, SDS RiskAssist your Health and Safety professional can do that in about 10 minutes per sheet. And you only do it once!



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SDS RiskAssist an Ontario-based company that uses the power of technology to give employers control and understanding over the otherwise pervasive and worrisome use of chemicals. SDS RiskAssist enables workers to know why chemicals are being used, what their benefits and hazards are and how to use them safely! Workers can access this knowledge via mobile or desktop SafetySnaps™, from anywhere in the world. SDS RiskAssist is the winner for 5 years running, of Readers’ Choice Awards by Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine (2018-2022); the 2019 Innovation Guelph Startup of the Year Award; the 2019 Quinte Business Achievement Award (Trailblazer category) and The Ottawa Network’s 2020 Bootstrap Award (SaaS category). We support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, working with our clients to take action for a sustainable planet.

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