There are currently hundreds of thousands of substances classified as chemicals that have the potential to cause injury or affect personal or environmental health. Chemicals with MSDS properties that categorize them as health hazards range from seemingly benign substances to those that are very obviously harmful.
So how are different chemicals identified as hazards that require documented MSDS solutions? The ability to cause either a physical hazard or a health hazard is handled by MSDS services to determine those chemicals that are either or both health and physical hazards and ensure that they are classified as a hazardous substance.
What Is A Health Hazard?
A chemical classified as a health hazard is one that has demonstrated through scientific study an ability to cause injury or illness to people. This includes acute illness or injury, chronic illness, or chronic negative health effects after exposure to the chemical. Chemicals classified as health hazards are those that are toxic in various ways (neurotoxins, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, reproductive toxins, etc.), corrosive or irritant, sensitizing, have a negative effect on different body systems, or ones that can cause cancer and other health conditions.
Chemicals are also considered to be harmful to health if they can cause damage to the skin, mucous membranes, the eyes, or the lungs with varying degrees of exposure.
What Is A Physical Hazard?
A chemical is classified as a physical hazard if the substance itself is proven to be flammable, combustible, explosive, pyrophoric, an oxidizer, a compressed gas, or reacts with water. Physical hazards may cause health concerns if there is exposure during a reaction, although the classification relies on the substance itself being unstable or exhibiting noted MSDS properties that indicate reactivity.
How are Health and Physical Hazards Determined?
OSHA provides extensive protocols for MSDS services to determine whether a chemical must be classified as either a health or physical hazard. Classification requires detailed testing of the chemical in order to first determine whether it causes injury or illness and second, whether it exhibits any of the traits that cause the physical reactions noted above. Studies must be run in accordance with accepted scientific methods and illustrate significant evidence that a health or physical risk exists.
Based on these study results, substances may be labeled as hazards and categorized according to varying degrees of potential to cause harm. A substance may also be classified as both a health and physical hazard according to results from chemical testing. In addition, some chemicals may be reclassified over time if they are eventually proven to cause long term health effects that may not be initially discoverable.
The process of identifying harmful chemicals and substances that have hazardous traits is an extensive, yet very necessary protocol that MSDS services must undertake. Through careful experimentation and testing, it can be revealed whether a chemical cause injury or pose other threats to those working with it. Using this information, necessary MSDS solutions that promote safety in the workplace can be developed. All chemicals or chemical mixtures possessing dangerous MSDS properties must then be documented with an appropriate SDS if one does not already exist.