Workers that handle chemicals or are in a work environment where chemicals are used, have a right to know the dangers of those chemicals. The more workers know about a hazardous material, the better equipped they are to work with that material safely.
The main source of detailed information about hazardous materials is the safety data sheet (SDS). Even though it’s called Safety Data Sheet, keep in mind, the SDS will likely be several pages long.
OSHA Standard 1910.1200(h)(1) Employers shall provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of their initial assignment, and whenever a new chemical hazard the employees have not previously been trained about is introduced into their work area.
All employees should know where to find and have easy access to a list of chemical hazards that may be encountered on the job and the safety data sheet for each one of those substances.
Companies that use, handle, or store hazardous materials should keep all safety data sheets in a central location for easy reference. SDSs must be readily accessible to employees.
The information presented on a safety data sheet is written in clear, non-technical language with standard phrasing. The SDS format is the same as the ANSI standard format which is widely used in the U.S. and is already familiar to many employees.
Because all safety data sheets are written in the same manner, once employees are trained on how to read the document, they should be able to understand any SDS.
Important information that the safety data sheet will communicate includes what exactly the material is, what the material’s hazards are, the proper handling and storage procedures for the material, and what to do in an emergency involving the material.
OSHA Standard 1910.1200(g)(8) The employer shall maintain in the workplace copies of the required safety data sheets for each hazardous chemical and shall ensure that they are readily accessible during each work shift to employees when they are in their work area(s).
Safety data sheets organize hazardous material information into sixteen numbered sections, which always appear in the same order.
Information that is most important, or will need to be referenced in an emergency, is always placed in the front, in the first six sections. Details on safe storage and handling is found in sections 7-10 in the middle of the SDS. More specialized, technical information is found toward the end of the SDS in sections 11-16.
SECTION 1 PRODUCT IDENTIFICATION At the top of the SDS you will find the product name, manufacturer and supplier details, and emergency phone number. Other common names and recommended uses may also be in this section.
SECTION 2 HAZARDS The next section lists the signal word (danger or warning), hazards, and safety precautions of the substance. Examples: Causes severe skin burns and eye damage. Wash skin thoroughly after handling.
SECTION 3 COMPOSITION Next you will see technical details about a material’s composition including information about any other chemicals included in the mixture, including impurities and stabilizing additives.
SECTION 4 FIRST AID MEASURES The first aid section is organized according to exposure, so you may see guidance on inhalation, skin contact, swallowing, or if someone gets the chemical in their eyes.
SECTION 5 FIREFIGHTING MEASURES In case of a fire in the area of the chemicals, you can find details here on suitable extinguishing agents, special hazards that may develop as a result of a fire, and advice for firefighters.
SECTION 6 ACCIDENTAL RELEASE MEASURES This important section outlines how to contain and clean-up a spill, a leak, or a chemical release, including personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be used and environmental precautions.
SECTION 7 HANDLING AND STORAGE It’s important that workers know how to stay safe at work. This section provides safe handling and storage practices that can prevent hazardous material (HazMat) emergencies.
SECTION 8 EXPOSURE CONTROLS AND PERSONAL PROTECTION To keep workers safe, engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) that are required for handling and storage, as well as maximum exposure limits are found in this section.
SECTION 9 – 16 contains more technical information on the properties of the chemical as well as ecological, disposal, transport, and regulatory information.