10 Tips for Using Safety Data Sheets in the Workplace

10 Tips for Using Safety Data Sheets in the Workplace

Despite precautions, over 100 people die every day in the workplace in the USA. It is for this reason that safety data sheets exist as the best way of informing people of the dangers and their mitigations in that workspace. So, how can you make sure that and safety data sheet you have works well for your needs?

Below, we have listed ten of the best ways to produce, distribute, and use safety data sheets. By following this advice, you can have the assurances that people remain as safe as possible within a workplace. So, read on to learn more about this important topic moving forward.

1. Check the SDS When Designing Spaces

When you intend to renovate or redesign an indoor or outdoor space, you should check whether any safety data sheet speaks to this process. This could be important, for example, when designing a ventilation system for a safety cabinet or extractor fan.

The SDS may have information on the arrangement of parts of the workplace to ensure that they are properly ventilated. It may also warn of the dangers of recesses or pockets where specific concentrations of vapor might accumulate. Such information would be found in section 7 of a safety data sheet.

Finally, the SDS could discuss the motor on a ventilation fan and if it has specific requirements. For example, to prevent it from igniting certain chemicals that may see some use in the facility.

2. Check Them for Air Regulations

When you are handling chemicals that may need venting, you should check the SDS to see whether you need air monitoring equipment in an area. This may demand that you should install smoke detectors or CO2 detectors, or it could suggest that you need much more.

Any air regulation SDS should have information on what the exposure limits for airborne contaminants are. These limits include:

  • Short-term exposure limits (STEL)
  • Permissible exposure limits (PEL)
  • Time-Weighted Averages (TWA)

These limitations should have been passed on to your organization by the chemical manufacturer or importer. Or, your local government may have their own information on limits.

An SDS should also have information about any evaluations of the local area. These would list the environmental impact of releasing chemicals into the wild.

Thus, if you are ever in a position where you might have the option to pour certain chemicals away, you should check with this SDS. This will ensure you do not cause harm. Some chemicals may even be biodegradable and safer to put into the local area.

There are many ways this action could affect the local environment, including:

  • Introducing toxic chemicals to the local water table from the soil
  • Bioaccumulation in the food chain over several generations or layers of predation
  • Ozone layer depletion
  • Hormonal changes in local wildlife
  • The chemical’s effect on climate change

3. Clarify Which Fire Extinguishers You Need

Your SDS should have the information for you on which fire extinguishers you need for the areas within your workplace. Not only that, but it should go into detail about the extinguisher you should use in any given situation.

The SDS should also have data on the equipment that is not appropriate for any specific situation or location and why. For example, it should inform you why you should never use water on a grease fire if you are in a kitchen area.

The safety data sheet is also likely to have advice on what you should do to deal with secondary situations that may occur from any particular fire. If, for example, a chemical fire burns it may need different handling than other fires.

Finally, if you need any special equipment to deal with a specific fire, a material safety data sheet should tell you what it is. As only one example of why, some fires might burn especially hot and need you to wear specific garments when dealing with them.

4. Confirm Transportation Handling Methods

If you need to transfer the materials anywhere, you should consult the SDS to see what needs to exist on any shipping containers. Examples of information that you might find here include:

  • Four-figure United Nations (UN) number
  • The official name for the hazardous chemical assigned by the UN
  • The classes of substance it belongs to
  • The packing group number of the material
  • What environmental hazards the material may cause

The SDS should also contain guidance on transporting the material in larger quantities. This may be different from transporting it in small numbers. For example, some materials have a chance of spontaneously combusting in large quantities.

Finally, the document should also have information on any other precautions that you need to follow. This should relate to transport both inside a facility and between facilities.

5. Ensure SDSs Are Accessible

When you are storing the SDS, you should ensure that any employee can access them at any point they wish to. For some people, this might entail creating binders of this information that the employer can update as they see fit. This can be very useful if there is a power outage and people can only access physical data.

On top of this, one person or a group of people should always be in charge of maintaining the SDSs that you have on file. This ensures that they are always kept up-to-date and there is a figurehead who can find them if others are unable to.

The best solution for ensuring that SDSs are accessible is to make them all digital. This allows anyone to access them so long as they have an electronic device that can connect to the Internet. Often, a cloud-based app for such SDSs even exists, to give people a direct method of accessing the SDS wherever they are.

6. Know How to Handle Sick Employees

There are times when an employee will come into the workplace sporting an illness. If this is the case, the SDS should give you all the information that you need to ensure that it is unrelated to the materials that you are handling.

Section 8 of an SDS will cover the exposure limits that someone must reach before you can consider them to be in danger in any way. In a similar way, section 11 should discuss the health effects of the hazard.

As an example, if someone has a skin issue such as eczema, the SDS should allow you to determine the cause of a recent rash. It could be standard eczema, or there is a chance that any chemicals or materials you carry are responsible.

7. Make SDSs Are Up-To-Date

The workplace is always in flux. The work that people do can change at any time, and both the equipment and material that they use might not be the same next week. At the same time, government regulations or other standards have a habit of changing now and then.

For this reason, the person or people in charge of them have the responsibility to ensure that they are up-to-date at all times. This should be an explicit part of their role in the organization to ensure that they have the time to perform this work. That will help to ensure that the SDSs do not fall behind in their validity.

8. Make Sure Everyone Receives Them

When updates occur to SDSs, or if new SDSs appear, you should make sure that everybody in the organization has access to them. This can occur via an email informing people of the change in a physical binder. Or, you can put up posters informing people of the new information in such a way that it would be impossible to miss.

Of course, another option for this would be to make sure that all your information is digital. You can then send these all to employees via email or another online system. That gives everyone a paper trail that proves that it was both sent and received.

9. Understand the PPE Required

If your work demands that you use PPE (personal protective equipment), then your employer should list this in the SDS. This could run anything from a simple face mask up to skin protection or fully encompassing gear.

The many different chemicals that one may interact with might need you to have separate information for each chemical.

10. Verify that They Answer Everything

Finally, you should have a regular audit of the SDSs that you have as well as the processes that you go through to use them. This process should be independent and free from interference. As such, the person who organizes the SDS system is not the person who should perform it.

More on Safety Data Sheets

Now that you have received the above information on safety data sheets, you should be able to move forward in a much safer way by using them. If you still need information on how best to go about this, though, we would be happy to give you the advice you need moving forward. All you need to do is let us know.

Our people are specialists in managing safety data sheets. As such, all you need to do is get in contact and we will be able to work with you to ensure that they are comprehensive and accessible. So, send us a message today and let’s get started.

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