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Panel: Steve Risotto
Media: Sarah Scruggs

Hazard communication supports safe use and handling

Solvents Industry Group producers have been providing safe handling information to their customers for many years. For example, Safety Data Sheets (SDS) provide information about health effects data, workplace exposure limits, use of protective clothing when appropriate, various environmental regulatory requirements, and techniques for managing flammability.

An SDS provides:

  • Information on the potential hazards, how to protect against them, and steps to take in an emergency
  • Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) and Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)
  • Handling, storage, transportation, spills, and disposal advice
  • Regulatory information such as OSHA classification and labeling

An SDS Can Be Obtained Upon Request from the Solvent Supplier

In addition, containers are labeled with appropriate hazard warning information. Similarly, during transportation, appropriate Hazard Communication (HazCom) signs and labels are used on trucks, tank cars, containers, and during marine transportation.

Protecting Worker Health Through Safe Occupational Exposure Levels

OELs are intended to set the airborne concentrations of substances to which workers can be exposed, on a daily basis without significant risk of material adverse effects. OELs are normally set for an 8 hour day and are expressed as an 8-hour time-weighted average. In many cases, a short-term (15-minute) exposure limit is also established. Occupational exposure limits can be called by different names such as: threshold limit values (TLV); permissible exposure limits (PEL) and short-term exposure limit (STEL) in the United States; maximalearbeitplatzkonzentrationen (MAK) in Germany; and indicative and binding limit values (ILV) in the European Union.

OELs for the majority of hydrocarbon and oxygenated solvents are set between 10 and 500 parts per million (ppm) depending on the individual substance's volatility and toxicity. Where solvents are used in combinations, additional precautions may be appropriate. To learn more about the OEL for a particular solvent, users should contact the product manufacture.

For most oxygenated solvents, OELs have been set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and/or the American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Determining OELs for hydrocarbon solvents has been made more difficult due to their complex composition. An industry task group has published guidelines for recommending a uniform methodology for calculating OELs for complex hydrocarbon solvents and blends.

Worker safety is important to the Solvents Industry Group. Many tools are available to monitor worker exposure. For example, organic vapor analyzers can be used to monitor the level of exposure on the spot. And monitoring badges, worn by individual workers, can be used to assess the level of personal exposure and help to ensure that safe exposure limits to airborne solvents are being met.


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