For example, if the material is a vapor or gas, vapor density is important. Vapor density greater than 1.0 (the density of air) would tell you the gas will sink to the floor, if released. If the vapor or gas has a vapor density less than 1.0, it would rise.
The specific gravity of a liquid is important. A specific gravity less than 1.0 (the specific gravity of water) would tell you that the material would float on top of water. A specific gravity greater than 1.0, means water will float on top of the material.
Another data item to note is the material’s pH. The pH is a scale that ranges from 1 to 14 that is a measure of whether a material is acid (1 to 6) or caustic (base) (8 to 14). In other words sulfuric acid for a lead acid battery is acidic, Sodium hydroxide for a NiCad battery is caustic, and pure water is neutral (pH of 7.0). Protective gear needs to be worn when handling acidic or caustic materials.
Fire and explosion data — This section details the flash point, the lower and upper explosive limit and two items of special importance to you. The first of these is the type of extinguishing media to be used if the material catches fire. Putting water on some chemical fires will result in greater trouble and will be ineffective in putting out the fire. The second item is the requirement for special fire fighting procedures.
Reactivity — This section lists the relative stability of a material, its hazardous decomposition products, any hazardous polymerization, incompatible materials, and conditions to avoid.
Health hazard data – This area bears close attention by the A&P. This section lists the route of entry of the hazardous material into the human body. Special care and precautions must be taken, especially if the material is an inhalation hazard. The most rapid routes of entry for a hazardous material into the body are first, inhalation, second, absorption through the skin, and third, ingestion or swallowing. In addition, this section will provide you with medical conditions that will be aggravated by exposure to the material and most importantly, emergency first aid.
Precautions for safe handling and use — This section details steps to take if the material is spilled, if any neutralizing agents are needed, proper waste disposal methods, and precautions for handling and storage.
Control measures — This area contains information for respiratory protection, ventilation requirements in the work area; the type of protective gloves to be used when handling hazardous material, eye protection required, other protective equipment needed, and good work hygiene practices.
Transportation data — If this section is used, it will detail specific requirements for proper packaging and labeling of the material for shipment.
Disposal data — If this section is used, it will detail specific disposal requirements that entail special processing; disposal at a designated disposal facility; and local, state and federal regulations and requirements for notification of spills and disposal.
While the "Right to Know" rules require companies and management to inform and train you on hazardous materials in your workplace, the ultimate responsibility for your protection is you. Read applicable MSDS for your work area. Know how to access an MSDS quickly if an emergency does arise. Review MSDS on a regular basis. MSDS change over time. New formulations, updated health information, new technologies for storage, handling, and disposal are made on a continuing basis. The "Right to Know" rules are there to provide you, the A&P, with information, training, and protection when using hazardous materials. Be informed, be prepared, and think safety.
Paul Groves is the former owner and operator of a hazardous material remediation firm. He has instructed the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) program for several firms. Groves is an A&P technician who has worked on FAR 121 heavy jets, corporate, and general aircraft and holds a Private Pilot’s License. Groves may be contacted via e-mail at fixandflypaul@ aol.com or (260) 373-2941 or (260) 348-1774.
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