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 19 of 31

F E A T U R E 20 well as the gap between classification and labelling." L. Hallsworth says they're really very important because it's the only way for people to understand the potential hazards to workers and the planet. "Nobody can look at a chemical and identify the hazards," says R. Hallsworth. "There's too many chemicals. Our senses are not reliable indicators of the hazards. Some things you can smell. But they're not dangerous. Some things you can't smell and they are dangerous. Sometimes, the hazard only appears under certain conditions." Furthermore, R. Hallsworth says, the hazard may not appear until many years later; for example, occupational diseases. So, one won't know until decades later that they've been exposed. This is why you have to identify the hazards, he says. "With the new version [WHMIS 2015], the terminology is really clear. So, if I said to you 'this product may cause cancer,' you understand what that means. You don't need a doctor or somebody to interpret it for you," says R. Hallsworth. "So, it's not just that they identify hazards, but they do it in a way that the average person can understand." He also points out that SDSs will also tell you when products aren't hazardous. "We have heard many times people say 'SDSs are a waste of time, we have them for white out, plant food, markers, etc.' There is a catch-22 with SDSs," says R. Hallsworth. "The only way to confirm a product is not hazardous is to read the SDS. If it is not hazardous, it still makes sense to keep the SDS in case a question comes up in the future. In an average organization, 1/3 of the SDSs are not hazardous. The challenge is to get people to see the hazards identified in the other products and focus on them." "It is impossible for suppliers to give specific guidance about how a chemical product is to be used because every workplace has different engineering controls such as ventilation and available PPE for workers." Lisa Hallsworth, Rillea Technologies coatings, plastic and aluminum coated packaging, cement, insulation, disinfectants, cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, drugs, etc. "And yet," she says, "they present hazards and, like COVID-19, the hazards can often be undetected by the human body. So, the only way to know about them is to get educated about those hazards. To me, that is the purpose of the SDS." Why are SDSs so important? "Without the SDS, GHS doesn't have a reliable way to make sure information about a chemical is available to the recipients of that chemical. The details need to be written down or they'll be lost," says McFadden. He says there are so many details to manage that they'll never fit on a singer container label — which is why a longer document is necessary. Furthermore, McFadden says, "to make that document useful, it has to have a logical and consistent format. That's why the SDS is such a key component of the GHS system: It bridges the gap between suppliers and recipients, as KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT SAFETY DATA SHEETS A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a standardized document that contains information on the hazards of a chemical or mixture and information on product safety SDSs should be compliant with WHMIS 2015 The SDS should be provided by the supplier of the product and has to be easily accessible when needed An SDS contains 16 sections, including composition, handling and hazard(s) identification

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