Labour Department Urges Use of Material Safety Data Sheets

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The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) should be easily accessible to all workers. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??

With the increasing use of chemicals in the agricultural industry, the Labour Department is calling on players in that sector to fully utilise Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

Safety and Health Officer, Kerryann Branford, noted that chemicals were found in fertilizers, pesticides, animal medications, cleaning agents and numerous other substances. In the paper entitled Maintaining Health and Safety in the Use of Agrochemicals, she stated: "The most effective method of ensuring that chemicals are used in the safest manner possible, is by reviewing the Material Safety Data Sheets which accompany all chemicals."

Explaining that an MSDS was a document that provides information on chemicals, Ms. Branford pointed out that it explains how they should be used and stored.?? It also notes how to avoid harmful usage, as well as what to do in the event of an emergency.??

Adding that the MSDS should be provided by the supplier when a chemical is purchased, she stressed that the employers should review the document and ensure every worker who handles hazardous substances not only has full access to the MSDS, but fully understands the document and is trained to use hazardous chemicals.

The statutory requirements for chemical usage and the general provisions of safety and health for persons employed in the agricultural sector are outlined in the Factories Act Cap 347.

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A representative from the Barbados Bottling Company Ltd. explains that the MSDS clearly states the name chemicals, how they should be used and stored, and what to do in the event of an emergency. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??

Furthermore, the soon to be proclaimed Safety and Health at Work (SHaW) Act has mandated that it is the employers’ duty to ensure the safety of their workers.?? This is also the case when employees use, handle, store and transport hazardous substances.

The Safety and Health Officer noted in her paper that chemicals could have diverse and detrimental effects on human health, specifically impacting the skin, respiratory, reproductive and central nervous systems.

"Effects are determined by chemical concentration, duration of exposure, the route the chemical enters the body, and the physical and chemical properties of chemicals," Ms. Branford explained.

She continued: "The effects of chemicals on the human body can either be local or systemic.?? Where local reactions occur, the site of contact with the chemical is directly affected and may range from minor irritation to severe tissue damage."

A systemic reaction is one which presents itself after repeated exposure, it is also not immediate.?? The Safety and Health Officer outlined that in such instances, the chemical would have entered the blood stream, circulated throughout the body and caused damage to "target organs", such as the liver and lungs.

According to Ms. Branford, legislation addressed systemic reactions: "The SHaW Act allows the Minister with responsibility for Labour to make regulations requiring the provision of medical supervision for employees or young persons whose health may be at risk because of substances being used or handled in the workplace."

Frequent medical checks are, therefore, critical, especially for early detection of any negative changes that might occur with the worker’s health.

For additional information on the SHaW Act as well as safety and health in the use of agrochemicals, persons should contact the Occupational Safety and Health section of the Labour Department at 310-1500.??

shamkoe.pile@barbados.gov.bb

Author: Shamkoe Pil??
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