Seek and you shall find?

With numerous risks associated with utilising hazardous chemicals; it is important to ensure safe storage and practice to reduce the risk of harm to employees and the environment.

Material Safety data sheets (MSDS) are essential to safety in the workplace with their comprehensive information on hazardous chemicals. Provided by the supplier to companies who purchase them directly; what happens in the cases where small to medium enterprises (SME) purchase these chemicals from wholesalers?

I decided to put it to the test; to determine how easy is it to obtain MSDS and to determine whether wholesalers ensure that the purchaser is aware of the potential risks and hazards. To my surprise there is no excuse from SMEs not to obtain this information; that is if they seek it.

Acetone, a solvent used in many industries and professions for cleaning and wiping surfaces and equipment, can be easily purchased from the local hardware store. There are risks due to its flammable properties and it being an irritant. Easily absorbed through the skin, lungs or ingested, acetone can cause nausea, headaches and even respiratory failure (Bradberry, 2007).

On entering a large hardware franchise I proceeded to purchase 4 litres of Acetone and as I would purchase a loaf of bread from the supermarket, there were no questions or comments. On a separate incident I asked a worker if the MSDS was available for the acetone product, swiftly she accessed the intranet system and printed it for me. In searching the same product on the online store, the MSDS is available, but only by clicking on an additional product information tab (Recochem Inc., 2011).

MSDS for chemical products bought from local hardware stores and online are easily accessible and easily missed if not requested. This post hopes to increase awareness of seeking these MSDS by SMEs to increase workplace health and safety; as if you seek, you will find.



 Bradberry. S. (2007). Acetone. Medicine, 35 (11). doi:10.1016/j.mpmed.2007.08.012

 Recochem Inc. (2011). Material safety data sheet: Acetone. Retrieved from 

This post was written by Benjamin for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and  Safety 2014


  1. This is an interesting exercise to go through, and if we all did it regularly, awareness may improve. It would be also interesting to do the same with something like bulk fertiliser, which may reulst in a visit from men in dark cars and sunglasses, but which has been very readily available in large quantities with no questions for years, like other ‘household’ substances such as rat poisons and until relatively recently, arsenic. Always interesting to explore old garden sheds too.

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