Your New Friend: Safety Data Sheets

October 22, 2018 / Business Associates

We’ve all seen that dusty manual that has been pushed to the back of the cabinet in labs and sterilization areas. Formally known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), Safety Data Sheets (SDS) often find their home in a book that is rarely read. Safety Data Sheets can be your best friend if you are ordering, storing, using or managing emergencies relating to chemicals in your facility. Get to know your SDS!

We are all aware of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for communicating and managing the use and care of chemicals in the workplace. This new hazard communication system is all about communicating the hazards of chemicals in your workplace, so you can know and understand chemical hazards, and you can do your job safely. However many facilities do not have a current and thorough list of the chemicals that reside in their work place and many do not have the most updated SDS and training on hazards and manufacturer’s specifications for safe usage.

SDS provide valuable chemical information on many topics. The 16-section format of the SDS make finding what you need to know to work safely within a quick and efficient format. Below will give you some things to think about and where to find the answers. 

16 Sections

1. Identification of the product

Some chemicals are known by a nickname and the product name is less familiar. SDS are typically organized by product name.

2.  Hazard Identification

Make sure you are familiar with the GHS pictograms and their meaning. Signal words, hazard statements, and precautionary statements help to quickly assess chemical hazard.

3.  Composition/Information on Ingredients

This section gives a breakdown of the hazardous chemicals in a substance or mixture

4.  First Aid Measures

This is one of the most important sections. The information here can save your or one of your colleague’s life. Review the SDS of the chemicals you are exposed to on a regular basis. Are you following the PPE recommendations for safe usage? Do you know what to do in case of an accidental exposure? If you are a first responder, these instructions can protect you too!

5.  Fire Fighting Measures

Every chemical has its own extinguishing method, and this section explains which type of extinguisher is appropriate for the chemical. Do you have the correct type of extinguisher for the fire potentials in your facility?

6.  Accidental Release Measures

Spills happen. Be ready. Do you know where your spill kit is located and how to use it? Some chemical spills require evacuation and professional cleanup. In this section, you will learn about how to contain spills and the method and materials recommended for cleaning them up.

7.  Handling and Storage

This section explains how and where to safely store an item. Can you store your chemical in the attic? In the basement? In the dark? Does temperature or light effect your chemicals? Can they become a fire hazard or inactivated because of improper storage?

8.  Exposure Controls/PPE

Do you know what your exposure limit is for the hazardous chemicals you might use or become exposed to when you work? This section provides the permissible exposure limits and recommended engineering controls for working safely.

9.  Physical and Chemical Properties

Chemicals come in many colors and some are colorless. This section explains the properties of your products. If it is no longer the color that is described, does that mean it is no longer effective? Do your chemicals have expiration dates? How often do you check?

10. Stability and Reactivity

Can your products be mixed with anything? Will they react?

11. Toxicological Information

This section gives you more information about exposure routes, related symptoms, effects and numerical measures of toxicity.

Sections 12-15 are not regulated by OSHA but by other agencies. It is still important to be familiar with these sections.

12. Ecological Information
13. Disposal Considerations
14. Transport Information
15. Regulatory Information

Can I dump my expired chemicals down the sinks or commodes without it hurting the pipes? Can I discard the unused portion of a certain chemical in the stream alongside of our office? Can I pour the diluted chemical in the garden bed out back? What is the recommended way of transporting this chemical? Are there other rules that need to be followed when using this chemical?

16. Other Information

How old is this chemical preparation and when was it last revised?

Get to know your SDS’s. They are your new friend, looking out for your safety.

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