Safety Tip of the Week: Chemicals and the Globally Harmonized System

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This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, provides information about chemicals and the Globally Harmonized System.

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), communicates hazard information about chemical products to employees. These safety sheets are provided to the district by the vendor or producer of the chemical and are an integral part of the chemical management plan for the district. It is important every person understands and knows how to read an SDS in the event of an exposure to a particular chemical.

Washington state has enacted the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), which is an internationally adopted system for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This system includes established criteria for classifying hazards and for further rating the hazards according to their risks. The GHS provides common language and symbols for each hazard class and each category within a class.

There are 16 standard sections on every SDS. If you see a SDS or MSDS that does not identify the following 16 sections, then a new safety data sheet needs to be received from the vendor.

The sections are as follows:

Section 1 – Identification identifies the chemical, as well as the recommended uses, and provides contact information for the supplier.

Section 2Hazard(s) identification includes the hazards of the chemical and appropriate warning information associated with those hazards.

Section 3Composition/information on ingredients identifies ingredient(s) contained in the product including impurities and stabilizing additives. This section includes information on substances, mixtures and all chemicals where a trade secret is claimed.

Section 4First-aid measures describes initial care that should be given by untrained responders to an individual who has been exposed to the chemical.

Section 5Firefighting measures includes recommendations for fighting a fire caused by the chemical, including extinguishing techniques, equipment and hazards from fire.

Section 6Accidental release measures provides recommendations on response to spills, leaks or releases, including containment and cleanup practices to prevent or minimize exposure.

Section 7 – Handling and storage provides guidance on safe handling practices and conditions for safe storage of chemicals, including other chemicals which may be incompatible.

Section 8 – Exposure controls/personal protection indicates exposure limits, engineering controls and personal protective equipment measures that can be used to minimize exposure.

Section 9 – Physical and chemical properties identifies physical and chemical properties associated with the substance or mixture.

Section 10 – Stability and reactivity describes the reactivity hazards of the chemical and the chemical stability information. This section is broken into 3 parts: reactivity, chemical stability and other.

Section 11 – Toxicological information identifies toxicological and health effects information. This includes routes of exposure, related symptoms, acute and chronic effects and numerical measures of toxicity.

Section 12 – Ecological information provides information to evaluate the environmental impact of the chemical if it were released to the environment.

Section 13 – Disposal considerations provides guidance on proper disposal, recycling or reclamation of the chemical(s) or its container, and safe handling practices to minimize exposure.

Section 14 – Transport information includes guidance on classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous chemical(s) by road, air, rail or sea.

Section 15 – Regulatory information identifies the safety, health and environmental regulations specific for the product that is not indicated anywhere else on the SDS.

Section 16 – Other information indicates when the SDS was prepared or when the last known revision was made. The SDS may also state where the changes have been made to the previous version. You may wish to contact the supplier for an explanation of the changes. Other useful information also may be included here.

Click here to view an example of an SDS for acetone. Acetone is a common chemical (think fingernail polish remover).

Understanding chemicals and their safe use and storage is important for continued safety at school and at home. SDSs are easily available online but, in addition, the district maintains binders in different locations for all staff. By the beginning of the new school year 2017-18, all of the districts SDSs will be available online at “Safe Schools.”