From: Allen Niemi <anniemi**At_Symbol_Here**MTU.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Online SDS subscription and emergencies
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2014 15:56:54 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: CAN0bzO5aVzntdsqTb-Bx7h8s-sTMUvOh4P2fLhg7srHqPqOQ-A**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <4ae97c8c722a4b62ab507939939762e7**At_Symbol_Here**>

I think Ralph's take on the usefulness of an SDS in an emergency situation is right on. As far as I'm concerned the maintenance of SDSs, in whatever format you choose, is mostly about OSHA compliance not emergency response. Our state OSHA enforcement people do claim that we must have a paper copy of the SDS in hand when the emergency responders arrive and they insist that we need it in under 5 minutes. I really hope that emergency responders and emergency room personnel have better sources of response information than the typical SDS. As Ralph said, it MIGHT be good for positively identifying the material in question but I have seen just the opposite happen as well.

Why would anyone prefer to maintain a collection of paper SDSs and keep it up to date if an electronic system is available? If you want paper copies for your lab, print them out. Do it annually so they are up to date and sort them so you can find them quickly. Nobody should be forcing anyone to ONLY rely on the electronic database if they don't want to, unless this is about saving trees. Prior to our adoption of a commercial SDS service the majority of our labs could not produce an MSDS that was less than 5 years old. A significant number of them were much older than that and represented only a tiny fraction of the actual inventory. We're not quite up to speed yet because we just got started on this system but it's a lot better than what we had.


On Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 2:39 PM, Ralph B. Stuart <ralph.stuart**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:
> In an emergency, a flash drive and a laptop can provide easy access to the files without internet service.

I'm not entirely clear what the purpose of an SDS in an emergency situation is. In training, I say that after the fire starts or the chemical spills is too late to review the SDS. The most important thing in such situations is having a reliable identification of the chemicals involved. If the SDS collection includes sucrose and sodium chloride, the collection could be a problem as much as a help in this respect. This approach is based on the assumption that the first responders have Internet access, which may not always be the case; I don't know if paper solves this problem, since the paper SDS in the lab may not be accessible in emergencies.

That said, I know that providing an SDS when the chemical involved is well-identified to response personnel can be very helpful in terms of providing clear identification of the chemicals involved and a level of assurance that everyone's talking about the same chemical. Along those lines, I did an HF training for a lab group recently and one of the tips I found in the literature was in case of an exposure to call the material involved HF rather than "hydrofluoric acid" to avoid responders hearing "hydrochloric acid" which is a more familiar phrase. I thought that was a helpful tip to pass along to the group I was talking to.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart CIH
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Department of Environmental Health and Safety
Cornell University


Allen Niemi, PhD
Occupational Safety and Health Services
Room 322 Lakeshore Center
Michigan Technological University
Phone: 906-487-2118
Fax: 906-487-3048

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