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Safety Data Sheets – Your Key to Chemical Safety

By Jim Wirth posted 07-14-2021 01:27 PM


While important throughout the year, the summer months are especially busy for the district maintenance staff. Most associates have some experience working with chemicals and naturally want to avoid dangerous overexposure to chemicals, especially on the job. Such overexposure is possible no matter where you work.

Your district's Hazard Communication, or HazCom, program was created to protect workers’ health and safety. Three important elements are at the heart of your HazCom program: warning labels on containers, training on the safe usage and handling of chemicals, and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Know what’s On an SDS
SDS’s are printed on pages or online which gives someone all the critical information you need about how to use, transport, and store chemicals in order to protect yourself, as well as what to do in case of emergencies and overexposure. Information on SDS’s includes:                                   

  • The chemical’s name or names;
  • Name, address, and phone of the manufacturer;
  • List of the chemicals ingredients;
  • Permissible exposure limits (PEL) or Threshold Limit Value (TLV);
  • What conditions or other substances will cause the chemical to catch fire, explode, melt, or turn into dangerous gasses;
  • How it usually looks and smells;
  • How to extinguish a fire involving the chemical;
  • What to do if it spills or leaks;
  • How to prevent dangerous exposure;
  • Health hazards such as skin irritants or cancer-causing chemicals;
  • Symptoms of overexposure;
  • What to do if you are overexposed; and
  • When when the SDS was prepared.

The information for each chemical’s SDS is put together by the manufacturer or distributor for that chemical. The information has been standardized so it should be easy to find the information.

Know Where the SDS’s Are Kept
SDS’s must be readily accessible to employees. A posted sign may direct someone to where to look or they can find out by referring to the districts’ written HazCom program. District employees must be trained before they work with these chemicals.

Important Protection
Employees should always read the SDS before they begin working with the chemical. Even if they have used the chemical before, the manufacturer may have changed it’s formula or it may be a replacement. Taking proper precautions listed on the SDS, such as wearing a respirator, if required, can prevent serious long-term illnesses. If someone does not understand something on the SDS or has questions they should ask their supervisor.

For more information or questions please contact Jim Wirth, 614.546.7331 or