Material Safety Data Sheets
An A&P's link to safety
By Paul A. Groves
As A&P technicians, our work environment poses special risks due to our exposure to paints, adhesives, solvents, cleaning agents, fuels, and lubricating oils. These materials are a part of our daily routine. Frequently, we may forget that these compounds, if not properly handled and used, can and do pose a threat to our health. Each state and the federal government require that all companies that manufacture or use hazardous materials must provide employees information and training on the proper handling and use of such materials. These rules are known as the "Right to Know" regulations.
The requirements for complying with the "Right to Know" rules were established in 1983, by OSHA. The "Right to Know" rules are officially known as the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. This standard has five components. The first is that a company must maintain a list of all hazardous materials in the workplace. The second component is that Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be maintained for each hazardous material used in the workplace. The third is that all hazardous material containers must have labels that identify the material and provide visual and written warnings of the potential hazard to the employee. The fourth component requires that all employees be trained to identify and properly handle and use hazardous materials. The fifth component requires that a written program be developed and put in place to comply with this standard.
While all of the five components are important to protect the health and safety of you, the A&P, this article will focus on Material Safety Data Sheets. The MSDS is the cornerstone of the "Right to Know" rules and is your link to safety.
The MSDS contains from seven to 16 sections. While there is no specific format for an MSDS, the MSDS usually contains, in one form or another, the following information: (1) General Information, (2) Ingredients/Identity Information, (3) Physical/Chemical Characteristics, (4) Fire and Explosion Hazard Data, (5) Reactivity Data, (6) Health Hazard Data, (7) Precautions for Safe Handling and Use, (8) Control Measures, (9) Transportation Data, and (10) Disposal Data. The various entries may be further broken down to specific categories, such as first-aid measures, accidental release measures, regulatory requirements, and ecological information. In addition, the MSDS may also contain label data.
The following discussion of each section is directed toward what you, as an A&P, should know.
General information — This section contains the item or material’s name, the name and address of the manufacturer and most importantly, an emergency telephone number that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Ingredients/identity information — Information on specific compounds contained in the product are provided in this section. For example, Aviation Gasoline 100LL, contains no less than nine ingredients. The most important and relevant information is the PEL and the TLV. The PEL is the Personal/Permissible Exposure Limit. The TLV is the Threshold Limit Value. (See the attached glossary for an explanation of these and other terms in an MSDS.) Some of these values will have a STEL or Short Term Exposure Limit also listed. The bottom line for you as an A&P is that the lower the number the greater the risk. For example, the ingredient "Hexane" has a PEL of 500 ppm (parts per million) and a TLV of 50 ppm. While the ingredient "Benzene" has a PEL of 1 ppm, a STEL of 5 ppm, and a TLV of 10 ppm. In other words, Benzene is a greater risk to your health than Hexane.
Physical/chemical characteristics — One of the first items in this section describes the appearance and odor of the material. This section also contains the material’s boiling point, melting point, vapor density, and specific gravity. This information will tell you whether the material is a liquid, gas, or solid at normal room temperature.
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