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Safety precautions and exposure

Safety data sheets and exposure scenarios help you to handle chemicals safely and protect yourself. Suppliers of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace need to provide this safety information and you can get it from your employer.

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) contains information about a chemical substance or mixture. It has information, mainly for employers, about the hazards, including environmental hazards, and advice on safe use at work.

Safety Data Sheets help workers take the necessary measures to protect their health and safety at the workplace and to protect the environment. They give for example information on safe storage, handling and disposal. In particular, the safety data sheet should enable employers to determine whether any hazardous chemicals are present in the workplace, and to assess any risk to the health and safety of their workers.

For hazardous chemicals produced in large quantities, safety data sheets should be extended to contain even more information on how to use them safely. For mixtures, such as paints and solvents, the information may be in the main body of the safety data sheet.

Safety information for substances can be found in exposure scenarios attached to the safety data sheets. Exposure scenarios are documents that define the conditions for handling dangerous substances without exposure to unacceptable risk. In other words, they are directions for safe use.

What about maximum exposure levels?

Controlling exposure to chemicals in different working conditions is important to make sure that you stay safe at work even when handling harmful chemicals.

The EU chemicals legislation includes maximum recommended levels for exposure to chemicals. These are concentration levels below which a chemical does not harm our health. These “derived no-effect levels” (DNELs) come from your suppliers. For biocidal substances, “acceptable exposure levels” (AELs) are used.

The information and practical advice in safety data sheets and exposure scenarios are key tools for planning workplace safety measures and successfully keeping exposure below the derived no-effect levels.

Your employer has to check all this information, and check whether the appropriate measures and safety precautions to avoid risks are in place. This ensures that exposure to chemicals in the workplace is controlled. Make sure that you and other workers in your company understand and apply the measures in the extended safety data sheets. If not, you can ask your employer for training.

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