Good Morning WOM Team!
Hope your weekend was pleasant and you’re ready to face whatever challenges this coming week might bring. Unfortunately, ready or not, they’ll come anyway, am I right? Well good luck with that, but today I thought we’d cover a little ground on a most interesting subject…the SDS or Safety Data Sheet. I can almost hear the cheering from here! Actually, I feel almost silly even having to explain what the SDS is, but just in case, here’s an excerpt of the requirement that created them, taken directly from the OSHA website, that explains their purpose:
“The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)), revised in 2012, requires that the chemical manufacturer, distributor, or importer provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly MSDSs or Material Safety Data Sheets) for each hazardous chemical to downstream users to communicate information on these hazards. The information contained in the SDS is largely the same as the MSDS, except now the SDSs are required to be presented in a consistent user-friendly, 16-section format.”
The HCS goes on to describe the employer’s responsibilities regarding the SDS in this excerpt from the same OSHA website below:
“Employers must ensure that the SDSs are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. This may be done in many ways. For example, employers may keep the SDSs in a binder or on computers as long as the employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area when needed and a back-up is available for rapid access to the SDS in the case of a power outage or other emergency. Furthermore, employers may want to designate a person(s) responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDSs. If the employer does not have an SDS, the employer or designated person(s) should contact the manufacturer to obtain one.”
But just having the SDS available at a moment’s notice doesn’t mean that we are all that much safer does it? By design, somewhere in those 16 sections it will contain all the information needed to determine the appropriate PPE needs during use, next steps if the product is splashed in the eye or on the skin, how to treat inhalation or ingestion, or what to do in the event of a spill or fire, but by then it may be too late. In other words, simply having an SDS isn’t going to make you safer if it is never actually read. We need to understand the hazards before we use the product at all.
I have attached an example of an SDS for a very commonly found product that I can almost guarantee you have somewhere on your property right now, maybe even within arm’s reach as you are reading this, and you may have actually used with-in the last couple of days. You know that fluorescent or brightly colored marker that is used to make text standout on a piece of paper, otherwise known as the Highlighter? Like almost all manufactured products, the chemicals that the ink is made up of have certain hazards. Take a moment here and give the SDS for the yellow ink type a read. I even used a fluorescent yellow highlighterJ to draw your attention to some things in sections 2 and 8.
Uh…were you aware that you were supposed to wear gloves and protective eyewear while using these markers? Well, don’t panic just yet, I am pretty sure that the gist of the warnings in this case applies only should you be exposed to a vat of the stuff. Listed as an ‘Irritant’ to skin and eyes in section 2, routine and normal usage would not be a concern unless you just began trying to change your skin or eye color by copious highlighter application. (There goes my ‘Ray of Sunshine’ idea for next Halloween’s costume party!) However, if a box of highlighters were crushed somehow and you were tasked with cleaning up the mess, the information needed to do so safely is within that SDS. And as section 8 suggests, there are general hygienic measures to follow that cover accidental exposure. Question…If you happened to somehow spill some of the ink on your clothing and are now being exposed to skin contact through that soaked material and you are instructed to immediately remove that clothing, couldn’t that be considered a double exposure? Wink-Wink!
By the way, SDS sheets for commonly sold household products that will be used in the workplace are not needed as long as the product is used as it would have been in the household itself. You do have to be careful how you interpret this statement though. While the highlighter itself might fall into this category, if you happened to have a couple hundred in your workplace all in one place, it might be wise to have one filed into your SDS binder. Also, it might be safe to use that box store purchased toilet cleaning product on the 2 or 3 toilets you have in your home in a single day, but using it to clean 30 or 40 in a day in the workplace, could lead to your being overexposed. Read the label and/or the SDS to be sure what the exposure limit or other hazards might be.
A quick shout out to Dusty in Corporate for the idea behind this safety message. She happened to be reading the SDS for a just delivered box of highlighters and I heard her laugh as she read the statement about immediately removing any contaminated clothing. She commented that one might want to be careful where one was at while doing that. So she was the actual inspiration for the double exposure question I asked. Now even though I used some humor (?) in the above message, I do want to reiterate the importance of reading the product label and/or SDS sheet to fully understand the hazards associated with it. You are only as safe as the instructions you are aware of and then follow. Take some time today and look at your Hazard Communication materials – SDSs and binder – and make sure they are up to date with the products you do have on property.
Hope I have helped to highlight an important safety topic. Have a great and safe week!
Dir. Facilities Services