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Continuing our series to better understand a chemical Safety Data Sheet, let’s dive into exposure controls and personal protection.

How much exposure to this chemical is safe? What kind of protective gear should I wear? These are important questions to ask when working with specialty chemicals. The answers can be found in Section 8 of the Safety Data Sheet. This section covers exposure limits and engineering controls in place for the chemical, required personal protective equipment (PPE), and special requirements for the PPE. This information builds off of section 7, which covers chemical handling and storage.

There are three main types of exposure limits that could be listed under section 8. They include:

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL)
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
  • Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)

Depending on the chemical there may be another limit listed, but typically exposure limits fall under these three controls. The exposure limits can also cover non-chemical substances. For example, OSHA has recently been aggressively lowering the PEL for silica dust on construction sites.

Appropriate engineering controls for a chemical can range from “use with adequate ventilation” to “use only in an enclosed system” to “use machine guards to shield the worker.”

Any recommendations for PPE measures are included in Section 8. PPE is comprised of necessary eye, face, skin, and respiratory protection intended to safeguard the person being exposed to the chemical or substance. This section of the SDS is also where to find special requirements for necessary PPE. Examples of this are “type of glove material,” “breakthrough time of the glove material,” and “use appropriate personal protective equipment in accordance with standard industrial hygiene.”

Whether you are working in a chemical plant or on a construction site, limit chemical exposure and proper wearing of PPE are essential steps towards improving safety.     

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