Keeping your workplace safe from hazardous chemicals doesn’t start with your PPE, or your emergency procedure. It doesn’t even start with your hazchem signs, emergency information panels and dangerous goods signs – it starts by getting your hands on safety data sheets.
Safety data sheets – SDS for short – communicate critical information about the substances that you handle, store and work with.
They’re also the starting point for your workplace’s safety policies.
After all, you can’t design an emergency procedure, figure out what PPE you need or purchase the right hazchem signs and dangerous goods labels unless you know what you’re dealing with.
And that’s exactly what SDS are for.
SDS are mandatory under Australian law… but what are they exactly?
Countries around the world have been moving towards global standardisation, with systems like the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS for short) being adopted by countries everywhere, including Australia.
At Signsmart, the part of this system that affects us most is GHS signs.
However, that isn’t all – let’s just say that there’s a reason it’s called a system!
One part of this system are safety data sheets (SDS for short). These are documents that manufacturers of hazardous chemicals are required to produce, outlining critical information.:
- The properties and attributes of the chemical
- Physical and environmental hazards
- Protective measures
- Transportation and storage requirements
That’s just a brief, abridged version of the information featured on a typical SDS – for a full list of what an SDS is required to record, click here.
All of which is information that’s crucial if you’re going to keep your team, visitors and property safe from the dangers posed by hazardous chemicals.
Using the information provided by SDS, you can…
Fit your workplace out with appropriate PPE
Some hazardous chemicals need to be handled while wearing PPE. Others require PPE when handling and moving them about.
How are you supposed to learn what PPE you need to handle a substance without the information offered by an SDS?
Whether or not your substance requires PPE to be worn while handling it, you’ll be able to find out by consulting the SDS that comes with it.
Come up with a safe storage method
Certain types of hazardous substances need special storage methods to minimise the risk of problems arising – for example oxidising agents need to be stored separately from flammable substances, and with ventilation for their fumes.
Once again, this is information that’s required by law to be included in a substance’s SDS.
This sheet will offer recommendations for storage, as well as best practices for your workplace to follow, ensuring that your storage setup is safe.
Something’s gone wrong – maybe a container wasn’t sealed properly, something’s been tipped over or it’s simply a case of human error. Whatever the cause, the result is the same: you’ve got a spill on your hands.
What are you to do? What should your response look like? Will you need to render medical assistance?
Your SDS will tell you!
Getting a copy of the substance’s SDS
So now you know what SDS are and why they’re such an important part of chemical safety.
Now for the big question: where do you get them?
Luckily for you, this doesn’t involve waiting in line at council offices or applying for forms – under the GHS, manufacturers, importers and wholesalers of hazardous goods are required to provide SDS to go with them.
What’s more, they’re also required to provide them along with your first shipment.
Of course, as with any other document, it isn’t unheard of for it to go missing, falling behind a filing cabinet or just being misplaced before a scanned copy can be made.
If you need a replacement SDS, all you need to do is get in contact with the people you got your first SDS from!
Do you manufacture hazardous chemicals and substances?
If so, you have a responsibility to create SDS for all of your stock, and to provide them to anyone who you sell to or who requests a copy.
Every time you make an initial sale to a customer, you’ll need to include with it a copy of the SDS to go with it, as well as be ready to send another copy should the first one get lost or misplaced.
And if an existing customer makes a new order that includes substances that they don’t usually buy, you’ll need to include an SDS for the new chemical as well!
Of course, your work doesn’t end there.
As time goes by, you’ll also need to revise each one of your SDS as often as necessary to make sure the information is up-to-date and relevant – at a minimum, you’ll want to update them once every 5 years.
What about wholesalers and distributors?
It isn’t just manufacturers that need to be able to produce copies of SDS on demand.
As a retailer, you don’t have the same irresponsibility as the manufacturer to make SDS for your customers – that said, you still have an obligation to stock them.
That means keeping copies of the SDS from chemical manufacturers, sending them out to customers alongside a client’s first order or upon request.
The only exception is if you’re a B2B distributor, and your customers are hardware stores and the like, in which case these rules don’t apply (of course, you should probably stock them anyway, just in case!)
Hazchem signs, dangerous goods signs and more
So you’ve got all the information you need to keep your workplace safe. Now it’s time to actually implement your plan.
And that starts by ensuring that you’re covered with the right workplace safety signs.
Hazchem signs, EIPs, dangerous goods class signs… these are just some of the types of signs you’ll need to keep your team safe from the risks posed by hazardous chemicals.
Depending on how many chemicals you’re working with, you’re going to need a lot of different signs:
- Hazchem signs for storage areas
- Emergency information panels (EIPs) for outgoing shipments
- Dangerous goods class signs to identify hazards
- GHS signs to ensure your workplace is compliant with international standards
Depending on how rare the substances you’re working with are, you might struggle to find the signs you need.
With a huge range of workplace safety signs, our online sign shop has just what you need to keep your workplace safe.
Fast, nation-wide shipping ensures that you don’t need to wait long for your signs to turn up – in some cases, your signs will be at your front door by the next day.
And that includes custom-made workplace safety signs as well!