Material Data Safety Sheets: A Practical Risk Management Tool

The O&P fabrication environment has changed significantly in the
past 20 to 25 years. Technicians routinely work with new chemicals and resins.
Compounds are being brought together to make new and exciting products. These
materials must be guaranteed safe and accompanied with instructions for safe
handling. Those instructions can be found in every material data safety sheet

  Brad Mattear
  Brad Mattear

MSDSs are a necessary evil for every manufacturing company in
order to be in compliance with state, local and federal laws,” Brad
Mattear, MA, CFo, general manager of O&P1 told

O&P Business News. “At any time, we can be audited
by any branch to come in and produce those materials. It is a safety net that
we have both for ourselves and our community.”

The role of MSDSs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard
Communication Standard (HCS) requires information to be prepared and
transmitted regarding all hazardous materials in MSDSs. According to United
States Federal Law 29 CFR 1910.1200, employers shall maintain any MSDSs that
are received with incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals and ensure that
they are readily accessible during each work shift to laboratory employees when
they are in their work areas.

  Steve Hill
  Steve Hill

According to
OSHA, the role of MSDSs is to provide detailed information for
each hazardous chemical, including its potential hazardous effects, its
physical and chemical characteristics and recommendations for appropriate
protective measures. Most MSDSs follow OSHA’s recommendations and follow
the 16-section format established by the American National Standards Institute.
Although OSHA does not require following a particular format, the 16-section
MSDS is becoming the international norm. Generally, employers are most
concerned with the hazardous effects of the chemical and its recommended
protective measures, according to OSHA. The 16-sections are:

  • Identification;
  • Hazard(s) identification;
  • Composition/information on ingredients;
  • First-aid measures;
  • Firefighting measures;
  • Accidental release measures;
  • Handling and storage;
  • Exposure controls/personal protection;
  • Physical and chemical properties;
  • Stability and reactivity;
  • Toxicological information;
  • Ecological information;
  • Disposal considerations;
  • Transport information;
  • Regulatory information; and
  • Other information.

Why are they important?

“We have evolved by utilizing new chemicals and new
processes,” Mattear said. “We need the access to MSDSs because
fabrication is no longer ‘just slap some glue on it’ to put these two
pieces together. It is a lot more involved these days.”

Mattear recalled recently using a MSDS at his facility regarding a latex
allergy for a patient. One of the identifying factors on the MSDS was
German-based glue. If his technicians had compounded that glue to the neoprene
it would have set off sensitivity to the patient.

“We would not have been aware had the practitioner not gone through
great lengths to write a proper work order and inform us of the patient’s
allergy,” Mattear explained. “One of our technicians caught it and it
set off a red flag. We then looked up the item on the MSDS and discovered that
if we compounded these two items, we would have gotten a negative outcome. It
behooves the practitioner to give us as much information as possible to produce
an overall better product.”

In today’s society, more and more individuals, especially children,
are enduring allergies such as peanut allergies, latex allergies or
sensitivities, according to Mattear.

“We have to know these things, otherwise we could produce a product
that would set off a reaction,” Mattear said. “I am sure that in
O&P school, versus days past, instructors are identifying these needs and
passing them down to their students.”

Overlooked items

Steve Hill, CO, technical consultant in orthotics for Adelphi Ortho,
facility accreditation inspector and Orthotic and Prosthetic Technological
Association member, recommended updating the MSDS at least once a year. He
understands acetone’s properties will likely never change, but there are
occasions when a better chemical comes out, an item is no longer available or a
new resin is used in your lab. These are the types of changes that need to be
updated on the MSDS. Usually, the MSDS would accompany the new item. If the
chemical is not accompanied with a MSDS, call the distributor and ask for one.

“It is everyone’s responsibility, not just the purchaser, but
also the distributor, to provide the sheets when needed and prompted,”
Mattear said. “It is the law and they must give it out when asked.”

According to Hill, the sheets should contain all the obvious items used
for fabrication, such as thinners, acetone and acrylics. But it should also
have other items often overlooked and ignored such as white out, air fresheners
and even hairspray. During his visits to facilities, Hill would pick up one of
the lab’s MSDS books and it would hold six or 12 different sheets
containing only the chemicals they use in the facility to fabricate. Do not
disregard even the smallest of items.

  © 2010

“The idea behind it is, we want to know if any chemical or any
powder gets in the ears, mouth, eyes or skin, then there is a resource to find
out what to do about it,” Hill said. “Different chemicals require
different treatments.”

The MSDSs should be used for all hazards. Hill thinks the sheets can be
a valuable tool for understanding how to put out certain types of fires, too.

“Water on a grease fire just makes it worse because you spread the
grease around,” he said. “Some fires need to be smothered chemically,
some with water or with a blanket to deprive it of oxygen, these are things you
would want to know and that are outlined in the MSDS.”

Where are your MSDSs?

Is your MSDS booklet easily accessible for your employers or is it
buried beneath files collecting dust?

“I have been in some labs where they are prominently displayed and
you can tell that they get used quite often and then in other labs they are
sitting on a bench with an inch thick of plaster dust but again you have to
look at the bigger picture,” Mattear explained. “Some of these
companies are progressive and some have regressed over time. Some are still
fabricating the same as 25 to 30 years ago and MSDSs were not a big player back
then. I think for the most part, these companies are aware of the need for
MSDSs. Those who are not are usually the ones that will find themselves in hot
water down the road.”

Mattear thinks the O&P industry can do a better job of informing
patients, certified practitioners and certified technicians of the risks that
hazardous chemicals pose.

“The first step of improvement is having access to MSDSs,”
Mattear said. — by Anthony Calabro

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.