Safety Data Sheets are critical to keeping employees informed of the identities and hazards of the chemicals present in their workplace. Specifically, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires the development and dissemination of important hazardous chemical information. In addition, this vital information must be available and understandable to workers. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers. Furthermore, they must train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.
An important component of this workplace standard is the nine pictograms. Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents a distinct hazard(s). The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classification. The pictograms help alert workers of the types of hazards they are dealing with. The pictograms will also enhance worker comprehension. As a result, workers will have better information available on the safe handling and use of hazardous chemicals.
In addition to the pictograms, the Safety Data Sheets are valuable in communicating information regarding hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These sheets have a specified 16-section format. Sections 1 through 8 contain general information about the chemical, identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices, and emergency control measures . Therefore this information should be helpful to those that need to get the information quickly. Sections 9 through 11 and 16 contain other technical and scientific information, such as physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity information, toxicological information, exposure control information, and other information including the date of preparation or last revision. The SDS also contains Sections 12 through 15 which include the information required in order to be consistent with the UN Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
Specific Sections of Safety Data Sheets:
Section 1: Identification
Section 2: Hazard(s) Identification
Section 3: Composition/Information on Ingredients
Section 4: First-Aid Measures
Section 5: Fire-Fighting Measures
Section 6: Accidental Release Measures
Section 7: Handling and Storage
Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties
Section10: Stability and Reactivity
Section 11: Toxicological Information
Section 12: Ecological Information (non-mandatory)
Section 15: Regulatory Information (non-mandatory)
Section 16: Other Information (This section indicates when the SDS was prepared or when the last known revision was made.)
Employers must ensure that the SDS are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. This is done in a variety of ways. For example, employers may keep the SDS in a binder or on computers as long as the employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area when needed. Furthermore, employers may want to designate a person responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDS.
Employers are required to train their employees to recognize the nine GHS Pictograms. Our Safety Data Sheet binders make compliance easy because the SDS binder is printed with the GHS Pictograms. It is designed to allow easy reference for any employee accessing SDS records. The pictograms are printed on the inside of the binder along with the SDS Requirements.
Hazardous materials are ubiquitous in a variety of workplaces and industries. From common household chemicals like cleaning products and antifreeze to industry-specific chemicals like muriatic acid, dangerous substances are a part of everyday life and work.
Unfortunately, when employees aren’t properly trained on handling hazardous materials (or these materials aren’t labelled or stored properly), workers can become injured, hospitalized, and can even potentially die from burns, cuts, explosions, and more.
While some workplaces are replacing harmful chemicals with more eco-friendly ones, this isn’t always an option for every industry. So here are 10 steps to help your employees take the initiative and keep safe when interacting with hazardous materials at your workplace.
1: Ensure all hazardous materials are labelled and stored properly
Have you taken inventory of all hazardous materials in your workplace? Identify all potentially hazardous materials and verify that they’re labelled and stored correctly. Keep hazardous materials in dry, cool areas with proper ventilation — and possibly behind locked doors, when applicable. Ensure incompatible chemicals aren’t stored close together, either, as these can cause dangerous chemical reactions and result in fires or explosions.
OSHA requires hazardous materials to be labelled and accompanied by safety data sheets (SDS). Don’t remove or change these container labels. If a label is missing, don’t use the material or chemical — and instruct your employees to notify a supervisor if they come across an unlabeled substance.
2: Keep Safety Data Sheets accessible to employees
Safety Data Sheets are valuable resources for you and your employees when it comes to identifying and handling hazardous materials. They share the properties of each chemical at your workplace, their hazards, and guidelines for managing each chemical or material. Whether you keep them in an electronic database or store paper copies, SDS should be readily available to all employees — not locked up or kept in a password-protected location.
3: Train employees on reading chemical labels & SDS
You can’t expect every team member to be an expert on every chemical you keep in the workplace, which is why chemical labels and SDS are so useful. Chemical labels and SDS tell your employees everything they need to know about a substance: from the types of dangers it poses (whether it’s flammable, causes cancer, is poisonous, etc.) to instructions for how to manage leaks, spills, or accidents involving the material. They state how a material should be stored and used, and how it should be disposed of.
However, labels and SDS aren’t much help if your team doesn’t use them! To ensure everyone has access to accurate information about your hazardous materials, require your team to take a safety training course on reading chemical labels. Not only is a course a great way to verify your team’s knowledge is up to date, but it will help you cover your bases with OSHA, which requires that workers are able to understand chemical labels and SDS.
4: Control hazardous energy using proper lockout/tagout procedures
If your work environment involves potential hazardous energy releases from equipment or machines, a lockout/tagout process is essential to keeping your workers safe from accidents like burns, amputation, fractures, and more.
5: Ensure employees understand OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard
If you’re a chemical manufacturer, you’ll want your employees to be up-to-date on OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard. To start, here’s a booklet that summarizes the OSHA Standard and provides important details about chemicals, safety data sheets, handling leaks and spills, PPE, and more.
6: Have PPE and emergency equipment ready and available
Your PPE and emergency equipment will vary depending on your workplace, but here are some examples:
Face masks, gloves, and goggles
Hand washing stations
Eye wash stations
Replace PPE if it becomes damaged or worn, and don’t reuse disposable PPE. Cleaning areas should be clutter-free and regularly inspected.
7: Store hazardous materials in their proper containers
Chemicals and other hazardous materials must stay in their original containers. Don’t mix them with other substances or put them into food containers.
8: Handle hazardous materials with care
Each material or substance has its own requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), handling, use with other substances, and cleanup — so read labels carefully. Only use chemicals for their intended purpose, and take care to follow procedures when transporting hazmat from one location to another.
9: Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures
Accidents happen, so your familiarity with emergency protocol can potentially mean the difference between serious injury and safety. What happens if there’s a chemical fire, spill, or a worker is injured from handling a dangerous substance? When should your team evacuate the premises? Have an emergency plan written and posted for your team to reference.
10: Dispose of hazardous materials properly
Different hazardous materials require different disposal methods. Some chemicals can never be poured down the drain, in the sewer, or even disposed of in the trash. Further, some materials require special sealed containers for disposal, while others may need to be transported to a special facility for disposal.
When it comes to workplace safety, don’t delay. Reinforce the need for vigilance around hazardous materials by checking out our affordable and ready-to-use hazard communication training kits.
With COVID-19 still on the forefront, many businesses continue to search for the best methods of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting in order to keep their doors open to customers and employees. As more chemical cleaning products are used, it continues to be important to train employees on chemical safety and potential hazards involved with their use.
Disinfectant use is soaring across the country, but many businesses have not provided training for employees to safely use these chemicals. Disinfectants can react with incompatible chemicals and even possibly cause health problems for employees. It is important to properly train employees to avoid creating additional safety risks. Proper training should meet or exceed current OSHA guidelines for using cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants.
Identifying health hazards and implementing training and resources for employees is a big responsibility. As you train current employees or new hires, it is easier to stay compliant by not placing all the burden on one individual. The use of HAZCOM safety training kits, safety data sheets informational posters, and signage can ease the process while training multiple employees with just one kit.
Proper Methods for Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting
While cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting sound like they are all synonyms for one another, they are different terms that serve different purposes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines these things as the following: Cleaning simply removes dirt, in general these products are less hazardous. Sanitizers work to remove specific microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Disinfectants then destroy or inactivate microorganisms that cause these infections.
It is important to keep these purposes in mind to properly complete each of these tasks. For example, just cleaning in a hospital wouldn’t do much good to eliminate the spread of diseases which makes disinfectants critical for the control of infectious diseases in hospitals and healthcare settings.
Different environments require different methods for cleaning and disinfecting depending on public health codes. Some codes may require the use of all these methods. For instance, some restaurants will require toilets and food preparation areas be cleaned and sanitized.
While cleaning doesn’t disinfect, this is a step that cannot be skipped. Cleaning should still be utilized by all businesses, especially frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, light switches and tables. To practice proper cleaning, simply clean all surfaces with soap and water. This reduces the number of germs, dirt and contaminations on the surface. This should be done before disinfecting to make it more effective.
While cleaning does eliminate some of the germs and infections, it does not remove enough to be solely used. It must be accompanied by proper disinfection. Disinfectants can be more dangerous, especially if you fail to follow the directions on the label of the particular cleaning supplies you are using. You should also be mindful of protecting your skin and eyes from any potential splashes, ensure adequate ventilation in the area you are using it, and label the products.
Using Different Methods for Different Materials and Areas
Just like the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, there are also big differences in the methods for different materials. This is especially important in businesses like hotels, nursing homes, restaurants, banks and a variety of other institutions where there is heavy foot traffic and a variety of things to clean. Everything from the sheets on beds to cloth napkins on the tables to flooring and devices. Each of these items needs to be cleaned and disinfected according to their specific directions in order for it to be sanitized effectively. This includes;
Laundry: Do not shake out any infected linens, towels or sheets. Simply place them in washing machine on the warmest setting. Then disinfect any hampers or baskets they may have come in contact with.
Soft surfaces: Rugs, carpets, drapes and other fabric materials can be cleaned with soap and water or laundered according to the manufacturer’s instructions and then be disinfected with an EPA-registered disinfectant.
Electronic devices: Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to clean and disinfect any tablet, touch screen, keyboard or any other electronic device. Or simply use 70% alcohol-based wipes or spray.
Before cleaning any of these potentially infected items, be sure to put on the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). This should include a mask and gloves so that you remain safe from infection and chemical hazards.
Safety Precautions to Take While Cleaning
While cleaning seems like a harmless task, there are many potential health problems that can be caused by cleaning chemicals when they are not properly used. This can include irritation of the skin and eyes, trouble breathing that can trigger asthma attacks and in extreme cases, even severe lung damage and death.
To avoid this, employees should be mindful of the ingredients of the cleaning products, how to properly store the product, ventilating the area the product is being used to clean, and avoiding any splashes or mists so not to come into contact with skin.
Employers must also provide worker training on the health and safety hazards that come with using chemical products. This training should be completed by each employee before they ever interact with any chemicals in order to ensure that they understand all of the standards on the proper handling, use, storage, and proper procedures for using chemicals and the required PPE.
All employees should also have a clear understanding they are expected to use cleaning chemicals only for their intended use, never mix them together and always wash their hands while working with the products.
In addition to the basics of the use of PPE, your employees need to be trained on how to properly put their PPE on and take it off. Safe removal and cleaning of the PPE can be the difference between remaining healthy and catching an infectious disease.
Detailed training is necessary for employers to maintain a healthy work environment. If employees miss one lesson in their training, it can put the health of all your employees and customers at risk. To minimize this risk, National Safety Compliance offers a variety of training kits to simplify the process for you.
This past September the top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2019 were released by OSHA. It is common knowledge that the rankings for the top 10 generally do not vary much from year to year. This does not mean the list is irrelevant or unimportant.
Each violation that occurred is a reminder of the hazards employees face on a daily basis when they clock in for work. And each violation that occurred most likely resulted in an injury of some type, maybe even death! The list serves as a reminder there is still work to be done to ensure the safety of all U.S. workers. As you read through the list, let it ignite a desire to expect better and to be proactive where safety is concerned as a company, as an employer, and as an employee.
OSHA’s Top 10 most cited workplace safety violations
Fall Protection (1926.501) leads the list again for the ninth consecutive year with over 6,000 violations. Moving up a spot is Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) from number five last year to number four. It switched places with Respiratory Protection (1910.134) which is down to number five. Here is the complete list:
As responsible employers, we must do our best to ensure the safety and health of our employees. Keep these topics in mind as you think through your safety training schedule for 2020. How can you mitigate risks? How can you ensure your employees understand the material?
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