Safety Data Sheets in the Construction Industry

Safety Data Sheets in the Construction Industry

20th October 2016

Safety on the job site is a vital consideration, especially in the construction industry which is responsible for a large number of workplace injuries here in the UK.  If we want to maintain a safe and secure working environment then we need to follow the proper safety precautions at all times and this is just as true when it comes to the materials that we handle as it is with the tools and access equipment that we use.  Because construction dust presents such a problem for those of us working in the construction industry, today’s we’re taking a closer look at this subject and what can be done to keep workers safe from dangerous dusts and other hazardous materials.  This is where a Hazard Communication Programme comes in – it’s designed to teach everybody in the workplace how to safely handle and work with the chemicals or materials that are necessary to use in order to do our every day jobs.

Hazard communication is a method of disseminating vital information about the hazards involved to every single employee in the workplace so that they know how to protect themselves at all times.

Hazardous Materials are defined as items that have a physical or health hazard associated with them.  Examples are flammable, combustible or explosive materials, and also covers materials that are toxic, carcinogenic, corrosive or irritating – all of which are considered health hazards.  The definition covers many of the materials used on a job site, including:

  • Solvents – glues, paints, varnishes, etc.
  • Dust – from sawing, drilling and sanding
  • Formaldehyde exposure from working with particle board
  • Hazardous waste – including asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs) which make remodelling and refurbishment projects particularly hazardous
  • Chemicals contained in cleaning products

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are the documents that chemical manufacturers provide to inform end-users about any hazards associated with a particular product and summarise product identification, scientific information on the ingredients used, hazards associated with the product, incompatibilities, potential reactions, safe handling and storage advice and guidelines for dealing with spills.  The site foreman should be in charge of storing SDS and making them available to workers so that they can familiarise themselves with the materials they work with and take precautions to minimise risks.

The most important section on the SDS focus on the first aid requirements and personal protective equipment that should be used.  Anybody working onsite using hazardous materials should familiarise themselves with SDSs, understand how the data is set out so that they can quickly find the information they need in the event of an accident or spill.

All materials used on site should be clearly labelled to identify the material inside the container.  The label should identify the product, list any related hazards (such as corrosive, flammable, irritant, etc.) and contain some information on the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be used.