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Personal nurse experience in safety data sheet’s decryption

Occupational Health Personnel’s ground experience contribution

Other than symbols, risk phrases, safety, hazard, precautionary statements, it is very useful to try to decrypt information contained or missing in a SDS.

Know how to identify hazardous components

Have a look at heading n° 3, components must be « gutted », EU classification (ECHA website) and other sources such as IARC monographs (1) via their CAS number (IARC lists updated several times a year). Use the opportunity to insert in a table all components of each product by CAS n°, which will facilitate research in case of regulatory developments.

A corporate strategy previously defined (management, health safety environment, HSE medical, purchases) will allow for example to list all CMR par categories 1a and 1b to 2. In view of a substitution process for all products classified toxic or harmful which may be initiated by multidisciplinary team.

Look under heading n°8 if ELVs or MEVs are indicated for components (Use the opportunity to record in a table so you can compare them to any possible measures)

Know how to identify allergenic components

  • Look under heading n° 3, search through the literature (European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, (2), PROMETRA (3), INRS (4)…)
  • Look under heading n° 15, to search for a specific occupational disease chart (5)

Know how to spot inconsistencies

  • No hazardous product included under heading n° 3, and indication of occupational disease table under heading n° 15
  • No hazardous component indicated under heading n° 3 and indication of hazardous products released during combustion under heading n° 5. Knowledge of implementation of the product is here essential (product heated or not?)
  • No hazardous product and indication of wearing gloves resistant to chemicals and masks stated under headings n° 7 and 8.
  • No hazardous product and indication of waste disposal specialized sectors under headings n° 12 and 13.

Do not hesitate to contact the manufacturer in trying to resolve this inconsistency.

Take into account exposure (predictable and real)

  • Example ethyl alcohol is classified CMR category 1 when ingested, but it is not classified through dermal contact, or inhalation.
  • A component classified as CMR through inhalation which would find itself in liquid form (but risk of evaporation).
  • Product stable at ambient temperature, which would deteriorate in case of heating or oversight.
  • Work in isolation with the impossibility of coming into contact with the product.

Inexploitable SDS

  • Some SDS are simply unusable: «mixtures of unclassified components»
  • The pH is sometimes simply not specified, even for a liquid product. All liquid products are not acids or bases. Yet it is the first question raised by the emergency department of any hospital, in case of accidental splashes in the eye.

The occupational health physician has the authority to request, covered by medical secrecy, the formula of the chemical under investigation. Sometimes it is the only way to obtain information.


With a little practice, it is rather easy to benefit from information contained in the SDS. We can translate this information into health impact assessment compared to product used. This assessment will be complete only if it is associated with a field analysis that is a workstation study, working conditions of the employee who can be in contact with the product.

Finally I would like to add that the relevance of the assessment depends largely upon the multidisciplinary team one works with. Skills are added together; let us not be afraid to solicit them.

Tableaux des maladies professionnelles

Jean-Michel HUGUET – Occupational Health