Safety data sheets – digital exchange in the supply chain18 July 2016
Dr Thomas Martin of GisChem, speaking at the fifth FILK conference in June, discusses the structured digital exchange of safety data in the supply chain.
According to the European Chemical Law, all manufactures and distributors dealing with hazardous substances and mixtures have to deliver ‘safety data sheets’ to their customers. Most businesses create their safety data sheets using special software. Therefore, the data is already available in a digital format. However, along the supply chain, the information is mostly transferred to a PDF or paper files. Companies using the information provided by the safety data sheets have to copy this data manually. It’s obvious that an electronic standard is still missing for transferring data smoothly in a machine-readable manner.
Within the SDBtransfer project, a universal process for an electronic exchange of safety-related data in the supply chain was initially developed. Using digital safety data sheets reduces costs and prevents media disruption. Small and medium-sized enterprises will especially benefit from this solution, resulting in a reduction of administrative tasks. To meet the requirements of practical application, the safety data sheets are transferred in PDF/A3, format containing a visual-readable PDF and an embedded machine-readable XML file. The structure of the XML file is based on the SDScomXML exchange format, allowing the transfer of the entire content of a safety data sheet. Future adjustments of the format will guarantee the adaptation to changes in the legal framework.
It is a great challenge to gain the support of all parties involved in the supply chain for this new and powerful format; therefore, to raise the acceptance of SDScomXML by lowering the effort needed for interface implementation in software systems, those data fields that are particularly relevant for health and environment protection were selected. Two tailor-made subsets of SDScomXML, EDASxChem and EDASxBau, for the chemistry and construction industry respectively, were developed.
The free hazardous substance information system GisChem, of the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BG RCI), supports users in the preparation of working instructions and lists of hazardous substances, or in the classification of mixtures according to the CLP Regulation. To make it as simple as possible and to reduce the amount of writing, soon it will be possible to automatically import a safety data sheet. After uploading a safety data sheet with an embedded SDScomXML data file, GisChem will extract the relevant data. If the imported safety data sheet does not contain an SDScomXML data file, the SDS-PDF-data extractor integrated in GisChem can be used to extract data. GisChem will offer an electronic data exchange using the SDScomXML format in the following modules.
This module assists in the preparation of working instructions based on a safety data sheet. Starting with a plausibility check, the imported data is used to prepare a tailor-made working instruction. Within online dialogue, the user has to answer questions regarding the hazardous substance or mixture and the dedicated working place. Questions, which cannot be answered automatically by the system based on the imported information and relevant sections of the safety data sheet are displayed, and can be entered without browsing through the entire safety data sheet. Currently, this import function is in the testing phase and will be publicly available later in 2016.
List of hazardous substances
With this module, it is easy to prepare lists of hazardous substances. The user can smoothly transfer hazardous substances and mixtures into the list either if they are already prepared by the user in other GisChem modules (GisChem-Interaktiv), or if they are available in the GisChem database of hazardous substances and mixtures. In future, it will be possible to upload safety data sheets to directly import the relevant information.
Based on the ingredients of a mixture, the mixture calculator derives the correct classification and labelling. Furthermore, the system gives advice about required experimental data and expert judgements. The new import function for safety data sheets will also allow the easy compiling of new ingredients for the mixtures.
Search for hazardous substances and mixtures
For many hazardous materials, the GisChem database offers condensed and judged information, as well as pre-made working instructions tailored for small and medium-sized enterprises. Next to the PDF format, the information will also be available in the SDScomXML format; thus, it will be possible to import the information in a machine-readable manner into other software systems.
The SDBtransfer project is part of the ‘e-Standards: Standardizing Business Processes to Secure Success’ initiative, which is part of the special focus project ‘Digital SMEs – Industrial ICT applications’, and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economics Affairs and Energy.