What Is A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) And Why Is It Important?

A "Material Safety Data Sheet" (MSDS or simply SDS) is a document that lists important information on the components, as well as the correct method of use and handling of a chemical product. Not to be confused with a the commercial data that is displayed on the label of the finished product, an MSDS is much more extensive than that, and targeted towards the people who would work with the chemical products on an occupational setting.

What information can be found on an MSDS?

The specific data that is required to be displayed on an MSDS can vary from one country to another, but some basic components are pretty standard and can be found on any typical MSDS. Examples include:

  1. Product information: (product identifiers, commercial names, supplier names, addresses,, and contact information)
  2. Hazardous ingredients and toxicity information
  3. Physical Data: (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.)
  4. Fire or explosion hazards associated with the material
  5. Reactivity data: (information on the chemical instability of the product and the substances it may react with)
  6. Health effects and exposure data: (the risks of prolonged or short-term exposure, for example)
  7. First aid measures
  8. Storage, disposal, and handling: (recommendations or requirements)
  9. Protective equipment or measures required during using the material
  10. Specific emergency recommendations: (spill handling, fire fighting methods, etc.)

In some cases it may be required to include the environmental effects of the material.

It is often required by law that each facility include the correct updated MSDS for each chemical component they use and that they be made available and accessible to each employee or individual that has direct contact or uses these products.

What does an MSDS look like?

An example SDS in a US format

An example SDS in a US format (commons)

While the form of an MSDS may vary from one place to another, it is important that each one is clearly specific to each chemical product used in a facility, the country, as well as the supplier. This is because a product of the same company may vary in components and formulation data depending on the requirements of the country it is being shipped to (even if it is the same brand). And even within one country, manufacturers of the same product may use different components and formulas, each with its own hazards and recommendations.

So before working with a chemical product, you must first familiarize yourself with its MSDS, understand its hazards and risks, and methods of its safe handling BEFORE actually using it.

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