May 06, 2005

Safe Absurdities 

Today I had to fill in a risk assessment form for my experimental facilities. Pages of paper (the forms, and the MSDSs, and the eplanations) and a good hour of time wasted to write down what I could tell from the very biginning: a system using only carbon dioxide at moderate pressures (< 150 bar) poses a low risk.

However, there are funnily absurd statements in the Material Safety Data Sheets:

Hazards Identification

Not hazardous

First Aid Measures (for gaseous carbon dioxide, mind you)

- After skin contact, immeditely wash skin with soap and copious amounts of water.

- After ingestion, wash out mouth with water provided person is conscious.

Accidental Release Measures

- Methods for cleaning up: [..] wash spill site after material pickup is complete.

Stability and Reactivity

Hazardous decomposition products: Carbon Dioxide

All this crap for a GAS that is only slightly toxic - mostly, asphyxiant. How the hell are you supposed to wash a gas off your skin? Or to swallow it? Or to pickup a GAS from the spillage site?

Every chemical you buy nowadays is accompanied by these MSDSs, pages and pages of paper, and time and money spent to redact them, only to tell things that chemists/chemical engineers should know by default. All these safety regulations are way past the point of diminishing returns, in my opinion.


I am the assistant FSSO, Fire Safety Sanitation Officer. MSDS’s for every damn object in a facility with a population of 800+. A stupid MSDS for felt tip markers! For white out! I blame the lawyers.

Even for felt tip markers?

Gawd, this is a terminal case of the Den Beste's law: Bureaucrats, by their nature, seek to expand their power and to control every more.

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