If you know what the chemicals are that you use and what their dangers are you will be less likely to hurt yourself with them. In your “Right to Know” binder your should have a list of the chemicals in your workshop (a chemical inventory), MSDS sheets and chemical profile sheets which tell you important information about the chemical.
A chemical profile sheet is theoretically easier to read than a standard MSDS sheet. There are several places on the internet where chemical profiles are available. One is http://nsc.org/ehc/ew/chemical.htm.
Mishandling of chemicals is the main cause of accidents with them: spills, accidental reactions, contamination, breathing, etc. Because so many products contain chemicals you should ideally have information for every product in your workshop that contains chemicals as well as those clearly identifiable ones that you think of immediately when one says “chemical.” Note that large companies have “hazardous chemical substance profiles” for every product that contains more than 1% of a chemical or 0.1% of a known carcinogen (Northern Telecom 87).
A chemical inventory should list:
- All chemicals in the workshop
- All products in the workshop containing chemicals-and what those chemicals are
- All metals and other materials being worked
- All metal decomposition products (i.e. oxides) that result from working processes
- A list of possible new chemicals produced by the working processes (i.e. the formation of copper sulfate in a sodium metabisulfate (Sparex) type pickle.
A chemical profile list needs to deal with:
- Chemical name
- Common name and synonyms (you would be surprised how many different names a chemical can have) (a highlighter on the MSDS sheet is acceptable)
- What kind of material?
- Manufacturer’s name, address, phone #, fax#, web site address.
- Where was it obtained and from what company? (their contact information as well)
- MSDS sheet on hand?
- What are the toxic effects of the substance? (a highlighter on the MSDS sheet is acceptable)
- Necessary environment, ventilation needed? (a highlighter on the MSDS sheet is acceptable)
- Personal protective equipment required? (a highlighter on the MSDS sheet is acceptable) Quantity on hand.
- How often it is used? (annual usage estimate)
- What is it used for?
- Where and how is it stored?
- Who has responsibility for it?
- What kind of disposal procedures are required?
- When was it acquired?
- How often is it re-ordered?
- How is it handled? Where is it used in the shop? Can a more dilute version of the chemical be used instead (i.e. electroetching allows more dilute chemical use)?
- What substitute materials or procedures could be used to replace the chemical in your procedure?
Next is a sample of a chemical inventory sheet. After that comes an example of a chemical profile sheet. Ideally you would have one of these for each chemical you use in your workshop, kept in your “Right to Know” binder along with the MSDS sheets for the chemicals you use. Just think, if you did all this it would be so much work that you would have to take it seriously, you’d understand your chemical usage more and would be less likely to injure yourself unthinkingly with chemicals.