Chemical safety in tourism facilities; Material Safety Data Sheets

Humans have over the years manufactured chemicals for everyday use. The chemical industry converts raw materials, such as oil, natural gas, air, water, metals, and minerals into thousands of different products. They come in all forms for different uses such as in cleaning, paints, fragrances, insecticides, clothing, name it. In this respect, societies have become dependent on chemical products. Tourism accommodation facilities are not exempt. Because there is such a wide range of products available with a plethora of uses, Material Safety Data Sheets are a crucial necessity.

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document that contains critical information on the potential hazards of a chemical product. This includes its potential as a fire hazard, environmental impacts, effects on health as well as its reactivity with other chemicals. An MSDS contains information on, how to use the product safely, what to expect if the recommendations are not followed, what to do if accidents occur, how to recognize symptoms of overexposure, and what to do if such incidents occur.

In the Eco-rating Certification Standard, there is a criterion that specifically looks at aspects of chemical usage, safety and storage. This is meant to safeguard the health of the employees and control pollution to the environment through accidental spillage or contamination from these chemicals. The standard emphasizes on presence of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) on all chemicals purchased, demonstration of acceptable handling and storage of chemicals and compliance with relevant legislation on chemical handling and storage.

The categories of information present on an MSDS include;

  1. Product Information: product identifier (name), manufacturer and suppliers names, addresses, and emergency phone numbers
  2. Hazardous Ingredients
  3. Physical Data
  4. Fire or Explosion Hazard Data
  5. Reactivity Data: information on the chemical instability of a product and the substances it may react with
  6. Toxicological Properties: health effects
  7. Preventive Measures precautions for the safe use of the substance, including engineering controls and personal protective equipment
  8. First Aid Measures

With regards to hazardous ingredients (substances likely to cause harm to health or the environment), it is important to familiarize yourself with hazard pictograms. These are images on a label that includes a warning symbol and specific colors intended to provide information about the damage a particular substance or mixture can cause to human health or the environment.  Some examples include:

What does it mean?
May cause or intensify fire; oxidiser.
May cause fire or explosion; strong oxidiser.

Examples of where we can find it
Bleach, oxygen for medical purposes

Examples of precautionary statements
Keep away from heat/sparks/open flames/hot surfaces. – No smoking
Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection.
Rinse immediately contaminated clothing and skin with plenty of water before removing clothes.

What does it mean?
Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects
Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects

Examples of where we can find it
Pesticides, biocides, petrol, turpentine

Examples of precautionary statements
Avoid release to the environment
Collect spillage

For more information on hazard pictograms click here.

MSDSs are prepared and provided by the supplier or manufacturer of a particular chemical product. With reference to tourism facilities, MSDSs should always be provided for swimming pool chemicals, laundry detergents chemicals in the workshop. It is important to always be familiar with the hazards of a product before you start using it. This includes safe handling and storage instructions, as what to do in an emergency. In this regard owners/ managers of facilities should make sure that the chemicals handled within the facility have up to date MSDSs.  The MSDSs must be readily available to the workers who are exposed to the product and to the health and safety committee or representative.