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  • Writer's pictureDale Allen

GHS Safety Data Sheets Explained: Section 4

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Section 4: First-Aid Measures

The purpose of Section 4 is to provide you, and everyone under your duty of protection at work, with enough information to deliver immediate and appropriate first-aid to anyone adversely affected by the substance or mixture.

Section 4 should be carefully read by any person planning to use the product to ensure they identify special provisions (e.g. decontamination agents or antidotes, eye washing stations, personal protective equipment and shower facilities) which should be made before they handle the product.

Because Section 4 contains information on the first-aid measures it is closely linked to the information provided in Sections 2, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Before you allow yourself, or anyone else, to use this product you should also carefully read the information given in those sections in conjunction with the information given in Section 4.

It will provide the reader with enough understanding of any of the potential problems before they use the product, and allows you to develop an action plan in the case of accident and emergency.

4.1. Description of First-Aid Measures

The definition of first-aid is:

The emergency care or treatment of a person who has contracted a sickness or received an injury before professional medical services arrive on the scene.

It is a legal requirement for employers to provide first-aid arrangements for their employees.

It is of critical importance that first-aid is provided to a person who has contracted a sickness or received an injury at work at the earliest opportunity. In this way, any harmful effects may be minimised.

The suppliers will provide information in this subsection which is aimed primarily at people with little-to-no training in first-aid. It should be easy to understand and formatted in a way that is easy to digest. It will allow a worker to help a stricken colleague before professional medical services arrive on the scene.

Using the information in Section 4.1 will allow an untrained person to:

  • Ensure the patient's condition does not worsen.

  • Promote natural recovery in the patient.

  • Take care of and comfort the patient until an emergency medical team arrives on the scene.

  • Where possible, preserve the life of a victim.

The information in this section should detail the best possible way to treat a patient through each route of exposure. There are four routes of exposure hazardous substances can use to enter the body.

The advice provided here should be put under the appropriate subheading for each route of exposure:

  • Eye contact.

  • Ingestion.

  • Inhalation.

  • Skin contact.

Please note: The most important action to take is the first one listed. This information is listed from most effective to least effective, if more than one action is recommended.


Inhalation is the quickest route of entry a hazardous substance can take into the body, where they can cause very serious damage. Here you will find information on how to give first-aid treatment to someone exposed to fumes or vapours.

The very first requirement is to move the affected person away from the source of exposure. After the person is safe from further exposure, it is important to close off the source of exposure if it's possible to do so without endangering yourself or anyone else.

The affected person may require artificial respiration which should be carried out by someone properly trained in the correct techniques. This should only be done if the first-aider is able to do it without endangering themselves.

Here are some examples of what you may see here:

  • Apply artificial respiration if breathing shows signs of failing.

  • Do not give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

  • Remove patient from exposure.

  • Remove patient to fresh air and keep in a position comfortable for breathing.

  • Remove patient to fresh air, allow to rest and keep warm.

Eye Contact

It is extremely important to treat eye contamination very quickly. Professional medical advice should be sought out as soon as possible.

In this subsection, your suppliers will provide information on safely and thoroughly cleaning out the eyes of a person. It should be emphasised the contaminant should be removed as fully and quickly as possible, using water or an eyewash station.

Holding the eyelids open will aid in this, as well as reducing pain and the risk of corneal disease. However, this information should be read carefully as the use of solvents (water is a solvent) could be even worse than the initial contamination.

Please note: You should consider what may happen with people wearing lenses at work in your COSHH risk assessments.

You should never attempt to remove someone else's contact lenses. The person will know the best way, so they should remove them. If they are unable to remove them, you should wait for a medical professional for removal. If the contact lenses are washed out during cleansing, this is of no concern.

Here are some examples of the phrases this subsection may contain:

  • If wearing contact lenses, rinse the eyes cautiously with running water for several minutes. Remove the contact lenses and continue to rinse under running water for several more minutes.

  • Immediately wash out the eyes with plenty of running water or eyewash solution. Hold the eyelids open and wash for at least __ minutes (here the supplier will specify the number of minutes, generally at least 10.)

  • In the case of eye contact, wash immediately with plenty of running water and seek medical advice (for less severe situations).

Skin contact

Here you fill find:

  • How best to decontaminate, to properly remove the chemical from the clothing and body to reduce immediate skin damage.

  • How to limit further exposure and reduce long-term systemic effects.

  • The correct methods of treatment for each effect (e.g. burns).

Here are some examples of the statements you should find here:

  • Clean exposed skin with plenty of water.

  • Continue to wash with X for Y minutes (e.g. water for 10 minutes).

  • Take off contaminated clothing and wash before reuse.


Ingestion can be very dangerous for the victim and the information provided in this subsection will vary depending on the toxicity of the substance or mixture that was swallowed.

Please note: You should never induce vomiting in an ingestion victim unless the information in this subsection specifies otherwise. Vomiting the product back up will often cause more problems than help (chemicals burns, aspiration, etc.)

This subsection is likely to contain - but is not restricted to - the following instructions:

  • Rinse out the mouth thoroughly.

  • Give a small amount of water to swallow. Large amounts of water can often lead to the hazardous substance being absorbed more quickly into the blood. It may also cause the heat of dilution (or enthalpy of dilution).

  • Do not give milk, as milk is slighty acidic.

Examples of the phrases this subsection may also contain:

  • If confined to the mouth, do not swallow; wash out immediately with plenty of water.

  • If swallowed, seek medical advice immediately and show the container, the label or the safety data sheet.

  • Rinse the mouth. Do not induce vomiting.

  • Wash out the mouth with plenty of water and give a glass of water to drink.

Protecting the First-Aider

In this subsection - to prevent self-contamination - the supplier will provide information and advice for first-aiders. If the first-aider were also to be contaminated, they may suffer from the same injuries or illnesses as their patient.

4.2. Most Important Symptoms and Effects, Both Acute and Delayed

Here the supplier will provide a list of the symptoms which are likely to arise, should someone become exposed. Especially important are the symptoms which are delayed. They must give information to cover all four routes of exposure.

They should also provide information on any effects that can be expected when exposure does occur, both at the point of contact and, if any, the systemic effects on the body.

4.3. Indication of Immediate Medical Attention and Special Treatment, if Needed

Subsection 4.3 is primarily aimed at medical professionals. It should contain any additional information that would assist medical personnel when treating someone exposed to the substance or mixture.

This information may come as a general suggestion, or the supplier may provide full, specific treatments or antidotes, if they are known.

Confused by the many pieces of information provided in those safety sheets? Join the International Association or Chemical Safety's completely free health and safety academy now and take the Safety Data Sheet Awareness Certification™.

This article was originally published by the team over at Sevron Ltd and has been shared here with full permissions.

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