Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
It is important to know how to read and interpret safety labels and SDSs (updated from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) in 2016). SDSs use the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), a universal system designed to provide a consistent method of communicating chemical hazards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a full list of SDSs to be present in the laboratory, so it’s recommended to print SDSs (available for free from Flinn) and organize them in a binder to store in the chemical storage room. Many fire department and emergency personnel require printed copies of all SDSs to be available to them in case of accident.
These sheets can also be helpful when taking inventory of chemicals and for disposal.
Teachers should consult the SDS for each chemical that will be used in an experiment or demonstration to review handling, disposal, and storage information. This also assists with the required RAMP hazard and risk assessment for the activity.
Not All Waste Is Hazardous
Waste is generated in the laboratory on a regular basis; however, not all waste is hazardous. Some chemicals can safely go in the trash can or can be disposed of down the sink. Verify the following guidelines with your local codes, as restrictions may vary.
Safe Disposal in Regular Trash
If you’re disposing of approved chemicals in the trash, make sure they are in a tightly sealed container. Always alert maintenance staff when chemicals are in the trash to avoid any accidents. If an SDS doesn’t communicate whether a chemical can go into the trash, you can refer to the chemical provider for further guidance. The following guidelines may also be helpful:
To be safely disposed of in regular trash, a chemical must be:
- nonbiological hazard
- not flammable, reactive, corrosive, or listed as hazardous waste per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- not a substance that may negatively affect human or environmental health
- not a carcinogen