SAFETY SOLUTIONS: The Importance of Material Safety Data Sheets
When you are driving on the highways, you see warning signs "Stop", "Caution", and "Hazard Ahead". Messages like these warn you of dangers on the road ahead. Your workplace also has potential dangers, but if you follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Hazard Communication Standard, you will be able to stay on the safety highway without an accident.
The HazCom Standard requiring employers to inform employees of potential hazards in the workplace continues to be one of the most-violated standards year after year.
Chemicals are a necessity at home and on the job, but utilizing them unsafely can lead to injury or even death. Chemicals pose physical hazards or health hazards and sometimes both. Physical hazards act outside the body to produce a dangerous situation. Flammable or explosive chemicals pose definite physical hazards. Health hazards cause damage such as stomachaches, nausea and even reproductive damage. Health hazards can be either acute or chronic. If they are acute they occur after a short period of exposure and their damage happens quickly. A chemical leak causing respiratory problems is one example of an acute health hazard. Chronic health hazards occur gradually over a period of time. Examples of these are carcinogens and reproductive toxins.
Employers must inform employees of potential dangers in the work place by:
- Identifying and creating a list of potentially hazard ous materials employees may encounter. Whether they are produced at your workplace or imported, these materials must be identified with warning labels and MSDSs.
- Informing employees of any operations in the work area where hazardous materials are present.
- Explain methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical. One such method is monitoring.
- Inform employees of ways to protect themselves using safe work practices, emergency procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Inform employees of the location of the employer's writ ten Hazard Communication Program, including details of the program, labeling system, MSDSs and how to use the information effectively.
Training must be updated whenever a new material is introduced into the workplace and whenever any hazard regarding a material changes. Employees, if ever interviewed by OSHA, or during an OSHA inspection, must be able to show a basic understanding of the potential dangers of the chemicals in the workplace.
Warning Labels on Chemicals
Like a stop sign on the road, a label on a chemical container gives important warnings about the potential hazards. Sometimes the labels provide little information or perhaps there is no label at all. If this happens, remember to use common sense:
- Never mix chemicals that are not properly labeled.
- Never assume an unlabeled container is harmless just because it isn't labeled.
- Never remove a label unless it is immediately replaced with another one.
- Labels must be legible, prominently displayed and contain accurate information.
- The chemical must be identified.
- Appropriate hazard warnings must be clear, such as FLAMMABLE or EXPLOSIVE.
- The name and address of the chemical manufacturer or importer must be clearly visible.
If any of the above information changes, the employer must make sure the labels are updated.
Remember there are 4 main categories of information on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS); product information, exposure situations, hazard prevention and protection and other specific information. Please, be responsible when using chemicals, it is your safety that is at risk if you don't utilize the proper precautions.
OSHA Citations for Machinery
After attending IWF 2000 in Atlanta, we would like to share the following observations:
- Lack of safe-guarding is within the top three most cited by regulatory agencies.
- Many new machines built today are either missing, or offer as optional equipment, the proper guarding, electrical controls and emergency stops as outlined by OSHA federal regulations, ANSI standards, and NFPA codes.
Some things to look for when making your next machine purchase:
- Point of Operation Safe Guarding
- Power Outage Protection
- Guarded Belts and Pulleys
- An accessible Emergency Stop
- Proper Color Coding according to OSHA and ANSI Regulations
For more information, click on the Authors Biography at the top of this page.