Chemical Safety 101: Understanding Safety Data Sheets
For businesses that work with chemicals or other dangerous substances, it’s essential to incorporate accurate safety data sheets. Not only will this help protect your employees, but it will also ensure that you remain compliant with industry standards.
But, not everybody understands the information that they contain. Let’s explore everything you need to know.
What Exactly Are Safety Data Sheets?
As the name implies, safety data sheets are documents that are designed to provide workers with relevant safety information. For example, a conventional SDS might denote when a certain type of metal or substance will begin to melt or boil.
This will then ensure that workers never heat it above a specific temperature. Safety data sheets are also provided to emergency personnel to help them perform their role more efficiently.
In the event that an accident occurs at your facility, it’s essential that emergency response teams have a full understanding of the substances they can expect to deal with. Otherwise, they may not be able to handle them appropriately, something that can cause further safety risks or complications.
However, the main goal of the safety data sheet is to prevent unintentional exposure or accidents in the first place.
Who Needs to Use Them?
Only certain types of individuals are required to implement safety data sheets. In general, they fall into one of three categories:
- Business owners who need to document the proper information regarding storage and use
- Employees who work with hazardous chemicals or substances
- Members of emergency services who would respond to an accident with harmful substances
Interestingly, many people are unaware that safety data sheets are not meant for consumers in any way. As such, they are strictly devoted to maintaining safety within the workplace.
It’s also important to note that employers are required to provide access to a safety data sheet even if workers come into contact with harmful chemicals irregularly. Just because an employee’s role doesn’t consistently involve working with dangerous substances doesn’t mean that they don’t need the relevant safety information.
What Information Do SDS Contain?
A safety data sheet should contain a comprehensive level of information about harmful substances. First, it should clearly identify a substance by the product name used on its label. Additionally, an SDS should also contain accurate contact information for the manufacturer or importer.
Afterward, your safety data sheet should convey the most notable hazards associated with the substance. For example, a common denotation involves describing whether or not a chemical is flammable, unsafe to inhale, etc.
If necessary, it should provide precautionary instructions to help mitigate the risk associated with working with the chemical.
Of course, is also important for your SDS to include the ingredients of the substances that your workers will come into contact with. This should also include both stabilizing additives and impurities if they are contained within the substance.
The following sections are particularly important to focus on, as an accident can easily occur if they are not followed correctly.
Accidental Release Measures
It should come as no surprise that an accidental release of a harmful substance could have drastic consequences. By definition, the term ‘release’ also extends to leaks or spills.
This section of your safety data sheet will clearly define how to react to this type of incident. It should also detail the appropriate cleanup procedures.
Some substances are only harmful if excessive exposure occurs. If exposure is limited, no consequences will arise for your workers.
So, it’s essential that your employees have access to detailed information about how to properly limit exposure to these chemicals. This typically includes the use of respiratory protection, rubber gloves, etc.
Otherwise, something that should be a routine procedure could result in significant injury or health complications.
Storage and Handling
Improperly storing a dangerous substance can easily put your employees at unnecessary risk. The same can be said about improper handling.
This is especially important to consider when transporting multiple chemicals at once, as some may not be compatible with each other.
Toxicological data aims to protect employees from the primary scenarios in which the substance may harm them. This means detailing the most likely instances of exposure, such as inhalation or skin contact.
Toxicological information also includes the effects of exposure, a detailed description of symptoms, and whether or not the chemical has been determined to be a potential carcinogen.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Even if you properly implement safety data sheets within your workplace, it’s also essential for you to properly manage them. More specifically, taking advantage of safety data sheet software will serve to streamline your obligations.
This means that you can quickly search for specific chemical names or codes, distribute information to the appropriate parties, etc. Additionally, you can access this information from a remote location.
Although it is possible to do so through alternative methods, it’s notably difficult to find one that is as accurate or convenient.
Understanding Safety Data Sheets Might Seem Difficult
But, it’s not as complicated as you may first anticipate. With the above information in mind, you can ensure that you have a strong understanding of the information safety data sheets contain and why they are essential in the workplace.
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