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Detailers Guide to MSDS

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Detailers Guide to MSDS

Postby PiP » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:52 am

Material Safety Data Sheets (or MSDS/SDS) are a commonly discussed topic on internet forums. There is a lot of mis-information regarding the importance of these sheets and with whom the various obligations lie. Hopefully this post will go some way to clearing up the confusion and helping some of the pros out there to be better placed to make use of these documents.

1) Who needs an MSDS?
If you are a professional who is using a hazardous chemical (any product with a 'hazard symbol' on the label), you are legally obliged to carry the MSDS. This is part of your obligation under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. As a professional user, you are free to choose whether to carry MSDS for non hazardous products. For non professional users, you do not need MSDS - the information you need should be on the label - but it is not a bad idea to at least consult the MSDS. Remember that the HSE can literally shut you down if you fail to provide MSDS, should the inspect your premises.

2) Where do I get the MSDS?
Your supplier should be your first port of call. They are obligated to carry the MSDS. Unfortunately, this often is fruitless as retailers are not adequately informed about the regulations so may refuse or may not actually have the documents. Next up you can try the company actually putting the products on the market (the brand name, so to speak).

3) What if I cannot get an MSDS?
This is shockingly common in this sector. Lets get it straight, neither retailer nor brand name is able to refuse you the MSDS for a hazardous product. I have heard every excuse and none of them fly. If either party refuses you an MSDS, you are entirely within your rights (and in fact one could argue that it is part of your mandate as a pro) to report the breach of regulations to the Health and Safety Executive. They look very badly upon this kind of infraction because it is the very most basic element of the regulations - if a company fails here, they may well fail elsewhere. They can approach the company and make them aware of their failure and can stop them from supplying products until they correct the situation. Again, to be clear, you are not kicking up a silly fuss by doing this. Failure to provide MSDS puts your health at risk and you are being nothing more than a considerate member of the community to attempt to stop such risks to both yourself and others by getting the HSE involved.

OK, so lets hope you didn't have to chase the HSE! What do you do with the MSDS, now that you have it?

i) What should the MSDS look like?
It should consist of 16 sections. A good identifier of the competence of the supplier is sections 2 and 3, these should be hazard identification and composition respectively. The order of these was reversed some years ago under the REACH regulations, something which should be well known to anyone in the industry. If your supplier says this doesn't apply to them, they are wrong! We have seen all sorts of constructions but 16 is what the MSDS should have. It should also be provided to you in full English. If it fails on either score, it is not adequate and you should inform the supplier of this and ask for a complete copy. If they refuse, back to the HSE!

ii) What am I now looking for?
Very first thing to look at is section 2 - this should give you the hazard associated with the product. It should tell you if it is irritant or corrosive (etc.) and in what way (for instance, is it a skin irritant or a respiratory hazard, for instance). Now you should know how dangerous the product is.

Now shift down to section 15, this is the regulatory type info. This will give the info in section 2 again but will now provide you more thorough details like the risk and safety phrases. This is the info which should be on your labels, so you should have seen most of it already! With this, you should have a pretty good guide as to how to safely use the product.

Have a look now at section 8, this should give recommendations for what personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used. Section 4 should also be considered as it gives you a guide to first aid which should be carried out in case of an accident.

Most of the rest of the document will be of less interest. Section 9 tells you physical characteristics of the products so, for water based products, the most basic elements will be colour, odour, pH, density, flammability (if any). Section 3 lists all hazardous ingredients present in quantities greater than 0.1 or 1% (depending on how hazardous they are). This will be accompanied by CAS/EC identifier numbers which are important to a medical practitioner since the chemical names used can vary for a single product and thus the CAS/EC number easily identifies the hazard.

Realistically, if you have considered these, you are better than 99% of other users and you should be well prepared for the hazards, as well as for any accidents. This procedure is actually going to be something you would be obligated to do in order to do a COSHH assessment, so every pro user should be doing it!

All of this is very straightforward and need only take a few minutes. By doing it, you cover yourself with the regulations and do not expose yourself to claims of negligence in case of a mishap. If product suppliers fail you here, report them to the HSE, report them on community forums so that others are aware and stop using them until they conform.
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Re: Detailers Guide to MSDS

Postby G3valeting » Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:51 pm

thanks pip very informative as usual . something we should all take on board.
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Re: Detailers Guide to MSDS

Postby PiP » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:58 am

G3valeting wrote: something we should all take on board.


Definitely, especially because YOU can be stopped from working or fined because you are in breach of COSHH regulations by not carrying proper MSDS. Whilst the HSE will appreciate the heads up about a supplier failing to provide the document, it won't change the fact that you have a hazardous chemical being used without the MSDS (which of course implies that you cannot possibly have done a full risk assessment).

The reality is that doing an MSDS correctly is not difficult and is really not that expensive. We used to offer such a service and the £100 per product could hardly be considered the end of the world!
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Re: Detailers Guide to MSDS

Postby Shine My Ride » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:19 pm

Another fantastic post, thanks for sharing your in-depth knowledge, but in a way that makes sense.

I'd best get my finger out. MSDS is one of those jobs I keep leaving for another day, but I see now how important it is.

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