Last week I said "check the MSDS." As previously defined in this blog, a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document containing data regarding the properties of a potentially hazardous chemical substance. It is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner.

It is also on its way out.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has replaced the MSDS with the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) and is attempting to create a template for companies to use that will both match documents utilized internationally, and also provide more standardization so they are easier to use. There will be 16 standardized sections.

More information can be found throughout the OHSA website, starting here. Companies will have to begin to revise their own offerings next year, and conversion is supposed to be completed by summer 2015. Between now and then, distributors and retailers will want to collect the updated versions to their own collections of MSDS's for the glues and finishes and cleaners that they stock.

By the way, I suspect that many of you will sometimes get asked for an MSDS for a hardwood floor. You don't need one, and you won't need one for an SDS version either. Why? Well, the bottom line is pretty logical: a piece of flooring is not considered a hazardous chemical.

In fact, OSHA has specifically excluded wood flooring from the need for an MSDS through two regulatory clauses:

  1. OSHA does not consider wood to be a hazardous chemical and does not require an MSDS when "the only hazard they pose to employees is the potential for flammability or combustibility."
  2. A piece of flooring is provided in a final finished form. OSHA notes that "materials which are formed to a specific shape and design during their manufacture and have end uses based on that shape and design are not defined as chemicals under the Act." Since flooring  is milled and prefinished before it is shipped to the customer, and is ready for immediate installation without further processing, an MSDS is not required.

Unfinished flooring would not require an MSDS-however the finish or glues using to install/finish the product would.

So say goodbye to the MSDS and hello to the SDS and, eventually, to a lot more consistency in data presentation and hopefully, more clarity in understanding exactly what's "in my pie."

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")