Decoding SDS Series Section 4: First-Aid Measures

Proper safety when it comes to handling chemicals is essential. Workers in close proximity to any chemical should be informed on the best safety practices and first aid procedures that may be necessary. While Section 3 of an SDS denotes the chemical composition of the substance, Section 4 outlines the appropriate first-aid measures. If an individual is exposed to a chemical in the product, proper instructions are given in how to care for the exposure. These instructions are for the untrained first responder to follow. It is imperative to note that the information in Section 4 is not seen as a substitute for medical attention. The instructions are simply the best way to handle the situation before professional medical attention is given, if it is necessary.

There are several ways a person can come in contact with a potentially hazardous chemical contained in the product. These ways are coined “routes of exposure,” including inhalation, skin, eye, and ingestion. Section 4 starts off with “First Aid Measures” for each route of exposure. Each route has a blanket first aid act to carry out. For example, eye contact may say “Flush with water for at least 15 minutes. If irritation persists, see a physician.” It goes without saying that if there are multiple routes of exposure, follow each applicable first aid measure.

The following portion of Section 4 of an SDS addresses the most important symptoms and their corresponding effects. This includes acute symptoms and delayed symptoms that often result from over-exposure to the chemical. The route of exposure determines the potential symptoms. Even if there are no significant effects or critical hazards, this information still needs to be explicitly stated.

If immediate medical attention and special treatment is required, instructions are listed under this section as well. This may include a note to the physician, any necessary specific treatments, and “protection of first-aiders.” Protection of first-aiders essentially states that the first responder should not carry out any first aid or action that they are not legally trained to do. The true purpose of Section 4 is to provide first aid measures for any sort of contact with the chemical. However, if the chemical is truly hazardous, professional medical assistance is needed and this should be stated multiple times in Section 4 of the SDS.

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