There are many hazardous chemicals on the market, many of which have perfectly valid industrial uses. There are other chemicals that are not necessarily dangerous on their own, but can be dangerous when combined with other chemicals.
And your employees need to recognize these chemicals one way or another. You also need to know how to handle them safely. There is only one problem: your employees don’t browse chemical encyclopedias.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Safety data sheets are designed to make it easier for employees to obtain health and safety information about chemicals.
What are safety data sheets?
Safety data sheets are an important part of two OSHA standards: the Hazard Communication Standard and the Laboratory Standard. Each safety data sheet contains essential health and safety information about the chemical, including:
- Physical hazards
- Environmental hazards
- Health risks
- Protective measures
- Precautions for storage, handling and transport
- PPE guide
- First aid guide
- Adjustment procedure
Think of a safety data sheet as a safety cheat sheet for every single hazardous chemical in your plant.
When are they required?
Chemical dealers, manufacturers and importers are all obliged to prepare and display safety data sheets for hazardous chemical containers. These must be provided in a uniform format so that every employee can access and understand a safety data sheet, even if they are not working for your company.
These safety data sheets must be accessible to employees at all times. They should be legibly marked on a chemical container, and if a box of chemical containers is traveling, the box should also be accompanied by a safety data sheet. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all safety data sheets are available, up-to-date and legible.
How safety data sheets were designed to make it easier for employees to obtain health and safety information about chemicals
Each safety data sheet comprises 16 sections, which are always presented in a consistent order with the same content per section:
- Identification (including product identifier, manufacturer name, etc.)
- Hazard identification (all hazards related to the chemical)
- Composition / information on ingredients (including all ingredients and trade secret information)
- First aid measures (including symptoms and first aid treatment)
- Fire fighting measures
- Accidental release measures (including emergency measures)
- Handling and Storage (Precautions for Safe Storage and Handling)
- Exposure controls / personal protective equipment (including permissible exposure limit values and PPE)
- physical and chemical properties
- Stability and Reactivity
- Toxicological information
- Ecological information
- Disposal considerations
- Transport information
- Other information
These are an essential part of the design of safety data sheets, which are intended to make it easier for employees to obtain health and safety information about chemicals. Everything an employee needs to know about a chemical is included in the safety data sheet for easy reference. This means that employees always know what to do.