Time to Update Your Hazardous Chemical Safety Practices

As the busy season begins to hit high gear it might be time to review safety procedures and best practices with your employees
Time to Update Your Hazardous Chemical Safety Practices

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Do you have an SDS? There’s a good chance you do. And, if you haven’t already done so, you need to share it with your employees as a best practice. SDSs, or safety data sheets, describe the properties of specific chemicals, including those used by portable restroom operators.

Previously known as material safety data sheets (MSDS), the new SDS includes recommended use, associated hazards, recommended first aid, and safety precautions for handling, storing and transporting each specific chemical.

As a best practice, safety data sheets should be kept in a binder or computer. OSHA suggests employers designate an individual to obtain and maintain safety data sheets and update information as it becomes available. If you aren’t receiving safety data sheets with the chemicals you order, be sure to ask for them.

As of June 1, OSHA requires compliance with the revisions of the look and content of the data sheets, which manufacturers and distributors are required to provide. While PROs will begin seeing new SDSs this summer, chemical companies have until Dec. 1 to complete the changeover.

Information contained in the SDS is largely the same as the MSDS, except it now must be presented in a consistent, user-friendly, 16-section format. Sections 1 through 8 contain general information about the chemical, identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices and emergency control measures. Sections 9 through 11 and 16 contain additional technical and scientific information, such as physical and chemical properties, stability, reactivity, toxicology and exposure control. Sections 12 through 15 also must be consistent with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

Of particular interest to PROs might be nonmandatory Section 13, which provides guidance on proper disposal practices, recycling or reclamation of the chemicals or its container and safe handling practices, including language discouraging sewage disposal.

“I think it’s wise when you get these new sheets to take the time to really read through them at least once and then decide where you need to do training or a refresher with your staff, or if there are procedures you need to look at,” says Karleen Kos, executive director of the PSAI.

“For example, if people are using a formaldehyde-based product and have been mixing their charge in the unit and allowing the door to close behind them, that’s not a good idea. You might look at how to change that process so people understand to mix the charge outside the unit.”

Section 2 of the SDS provides information on chemical labeling, including the use of signal words such as "Danger" (severe hazard) and "Warning" (less severe hazard). It also describes the use of pictograms or graphic warnings such as a skull and cross bones for acute toxicity, an exclamation mark for skin and eye irritant, and an individual with an exploding heart, noting the chemical as a health hazard.

Justin Kwiatkowski, product manager for Surco Products, says the pictograms could change the way PROs use chemicals or the chemicals they choose to use. It also might impact how chemical companies formulate their products.

“I was talking to my regulatory guy and there’s a compound called Lilial that’s found in almost every fragrance,” Kwiatkowski says. “It’s a sweeter smell, and if you have 0.1 percent or more it’s required to have the Health Hazard pictogram. So we’re going back to the formula and changing it a little or removing the Lilial so we don’t have to have that danger symbol.”

Of course it’s always a good practice to wear gloves and safety glasses whenever you’re handling restroom deodorants and chemicals.

“The spilling of liquids is really, really easy,” Kwaitkowski says. “All PROs should be wearing gloves. If you get some chemical on your hands every day you don’t think it’s a big deal, but over the years it can have significant effects. Safety glasses, too. If something gets splashed into your eyes it affects the whole blood system.”

Kos suggests PROs also wear hard hats and protective clothing.

“Some sort of protective clothing is a good idea, but it’s beastly hot in some areas, especially in the summer, and people aren’t as likely to wear coveralls or something to protect their body,” she says. “Goggles, gloves, boots and hard hats are things we would recommend as a minimum.”


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