Canadian Occupational Safety

November/December 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 17 of 31

F E A T U R E 18 KNOW YOUR STUFF: SAFETY DATA SHEETS Safety Data Sheets are an integral part of chemical safety. Nevertheless, workplaces may face challenges when utilizing them. Here is what you need to know and what you can do to ensure effective usage of SDSs MOST workplaces, in some way, have to grapple with chemical safety, from chemical plants that may handle hundreds if not thousands of chemicals a day to less obvious contenders such as beauty salons (e.g., nail technicians are in contact with a host of hazardous substances such as glues and polishes). As such, chemical safety is a concern for most workers. Nevertheless, there is so much data surrounding chemicals that it can be difficult to keep track. This is where Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) come in. What are Safety Data Sheets? An SDS is a "standardized document that provides detailed information about the hazards of a chemical or mixture, along with instructions on how to mitigate those hazards or respond to an accident," says Brian McFadden, a technical writer and compliance specialist with Graphic Products."It's meant to answer the questions 'What is this stuff ?' and produced to share information with essentially anyone who may come in contact with the chemical product, be it the end user, medical staff, emergency responders, etc. SDSs are compliant with WHMIS 2015 and are built according to very strict criteria for the information shared in the SDS. 'What do I need to do to stay safe?'" "From my perspective, the Safety Data Sheet is really the best source of information for anyone who is looking to learn about the chemical product," says Lisa Hallsworth, CEO of Rillea Technologies. Hallsworth explains that it is "The SDS is a standardized document created by the suppliers that gives you the information that you need … There's lots of technical information in there that the average person is not going to understand, but the real core information, the hazard information is in terms I think every person can understand," says Rob Hallsworth, COO of Rillea Technologies. He adds that an SDS does not provide workplace-specific instructions. "The supplier gives you information, but the employer still has to take that information and understand how to apply it in their workplace based on how they're using the product, what mitigation measures they have available and how they want to protect their employees." Some people feel like the SDS should tell you everything that you need to know about the use of a chemical in your workplace, says R. Hallsworth, and it doesn't. It is up to employers to decide how workers should safely handle that product in their workplace. "While the SDS is beneficial to all users of chemical products, they are legally required by employers handling hazardous products," says L. Hallsworth. Supplier labelling and SDS requirements are set out under the Hazardous Products Act (HPA), which is a federal act. Since occupational health and safety falls under provincial legislation, each Canadian province has adopted WHMIS 2015. McFadden says the SDS is part of a broader system created by the United Nations (UN) that aims to improve chemical safety. The system, entitled Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (also known as GHS), is an international project. As the world becomes more and more interconnected, it became imperative for there to be a unified framework that prevents confusion or miscommunication over chemical safety. "GHS starts by classifying the hazards of a chemical with objective data and metrics, so that users can agree on exactly what the hazards are," says McFadden. "Then, the chemical is described with a standardized document (the SDS) to provide an accessible record with detailed information. Finally, each container of the chemical is labelled with "The supplier gives you information, but the employer still has to take that information and understand how to apply it in their workplace based on how they're using the product, what mitigation measures they have available." Rob Hallsworth, Rillea Technologies

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