MSDS Technology Made Simple
- By Valerie Weadock
- Apr 01, 2003
AS if it weren't hard enough keeping business flowing smoothly and clients
and employees safe and happy, you must also keep up with the latest technology.
While it may not be important to have the latest and "greatest" computer system,
technology aimed at making your business run more efficiently could save you
money, and thus deserves a look.
Many companies have turned to computer technology for compliance solutions,
particularly in the area of maintaining Material Safety Data Sheets. Internet
and software programs for this task are numerous; the trick is finding one that
doesn't create more work or require an extensive orientation to operate.
A Simple Search
3E Company's Healthcare MSDS DatabaseTM is technology made simple. To access more than 10,000
MSDSs specific to the medical industry, subscribers simply enter their user name
and password and click on the Healthcare MSDS DatabaseTM link on the system's homepage.
Unlike other Internet- or CD-ROM-based MSDS managers, the database can search
for an MSDS by not only the manufacturer or product name, but also CAS number,
chemical name, or an internal number. If a user is unsure of the spelling, the
exact name, or remembers only that the chemical's name started with "D," search
criteria modifiers "greater than," "less than," "contains," "starts with" (and
more) make sure the employee still finds the necessary MSDS quickly. This task
is much harder, if not impossible, with three-ring binder or file MSDS
After an employee enters search criteria, the system returns a list of the
MSDSs that meet the search requirements. The list includes the names of the
product and manufacturer, the date the MSDS on file was last revised, and
product and identification numbers, which are unique identifiers that allow 3E
to answer customer inquiries faster.
MSDSs are viewed using Adobe Acrobat® by simply clicking on the desired
product on the search results list. (Every page within the database features a
link for downloading the free Adobe program.) A specific MSDS can be viewed,
printed, e-mailed, or saved. The save feature allows organizations to create
their own library or file of products in use in their facilities and save the
file to a network location accessible to specific individuals or all
Users can view an ingredient list to review the chemical names, CAS numbers,
and the minimum and maximum percentages of all hazardous ingredients. While it
takes a little longer to load, a summary link opens a separate window that
includes an overview of the information on the MSDS in a format that's easier to
read and understand.
The major advantage to Internet or electronic MSDS
management systems is that someone else assumes the responsibility for
maintaining the database, freeing up personnel and resources within your
company. These systems are likely to be more accurate and up-to-date because
they don't rely on an employee's replacing outdated MSDSs with the latest one
received with an order.
3E updates Healthcare MSDS Database™ monthly, based on customer requests. If
a particular product is not available in the database, customers can notify 3E
and the company will obtain the MSDS from the manufacturer. A status link on the
search results page informs users if a product's MSDS has been requested but is
not yet available. 3E also ensures MSDSs in the database are the most current
In addition to these standard features, a subscription to the database
includes up to 50 calls for MSDS fax requests or application technical support
calls, up to two calls for chemical spill assistance, and two calls related to
poison control situations. If they exceed the number of allotted calls,
customers can reach a 3E representative for an additional charge.
Still, if the idea of navigating an automated answering system is less than
thrilling, why not have them call you? Every page within the database features
an InstaCall button, where users can specify in a small form that they'd like a
3E representative to call them directly.
There When You Need It
OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR
1910.1200) requires MSDSs to be readily accessible to employees in their work
areas. The standard specifies that employees must have access to the actual
MSDS, not relying on a phone-based or similar system. However, Internet-based
systems meet compliance requirements as long as employees have easy access to
both a computer terminal and the Web site at all times.
Unfortunately, computers, networks, servers, and Web sites are known for
failing when you need them the most. This unreliability often necessitates
maintenance of an alternative MSDS system in order to ensure compliance,
ultimately creating a lot more work. This is where 3E goes the extra mile.
To ensure business continuity and their clients' safety and compliance, 3E's
data and operations centers are equipped with back-up batteries and power
generators, multiple telephone connections and redundant telecom providers, and
multiple connections through redundant Internet Service Providers. Backup data
is extracted daily and data is replicated in real time to an off-site facility.
Basically, the company is doing a lot to make sure the information customers are
looking for is there when they need it.
What You Need
To access and run Healthcare MSDS Database™, you need a
computer with at least a Pentium II processor, a Windows 98 operating system,
and 32MB of memory. The database also demands at least a 56K dial-up modem
Internet connection and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape 4.76 or
The price of this service depends on the type of customer and its specific
needs. 3E says Healthcare MSDS Database™ is intended to provide a basic,
centralized MSDS database for the health care industry at a competitive price.
Because of its ease of use, strong search capabilities, accompanying customer
support, and the headaches it could spare you, the service is probably worth the
This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.