The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all workplaces in the United States that handle potentially harmful or hazardous chemicals maintain and make available to their employees the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for each chemical. The MSDS contains important information about chemicals and their effects, proper handling and other areas of concern.
Manufacturer's Contact Information
Should it become necessary, MSDSs contain contact information for the maker of each chemical. This includes but is not limited to the product's name, manufacturer's name and address, distributor's name and emergency phone numbers.
The hazardous ingredients section must have the chemical and common name of all toxic ingredients. It must also include OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), which is the highest amount of a chemical that can be inhaled regularly without adverse health effects.
It is also required to include a section pertaining to the physical characteristics of a chemical. These items include “boiling point, melting point, vapor pressure, vapor density, solubility in water, specific gravity, percent volatile, evaporation rate, appearance, and odor. Sometimes the pH is included for aqueous solutions,” according to Colgate University.
Fire/Explosion Hazard Data
To plan for fire-related emergencies, a fire or explosion data section must be included. This should include information on a product's flammability and the type of fire extinguisher needed to suppress a fire fueled by the specific chemical.
The reactivity section is generally divided into subcategories based on how a product reacts with another substance. The stability section covers information on the conditions under which the product can decompose. Incompatibility sections discuss chemicals the product should never be mixed with. The hazardous polymerization section discusses conditions under which the product can form into a polymer.
A section devoted to the toxicological properties should cover several different areas. Method of entrance, be it skin, inhalation or ingestion, is one area covered. Other areas include symptoms of overexposure, acute and chronic health issues and whether or not the product has been listed as a carcinogen.
A section on preventative measures should include information about the safe handling and use of the product. Information in this section should cover the cleaning of spills and leaks, disposal of the chemical and concerns when repairing or maintaining equipment related to the chemical.
Should a workplace accident occur, the MSDS contains a first-aid section. This area discusses the proper steps to take based upon the path of entry and symptoms that are presenting.
The preparation information contains information on the proper measures to be taken when handling the chemical. This section discusses proper attire and protective gear needed such as goggles, gloves, respirators and clothing recommendations.
- State Compensation Insurance Fund: Material Safety Data Sheets
- MSDS Writer: Material Safety Data Sheet, MSDS Requirements
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: OSH Answers: Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
- Oklahoma State University: Hazard Communication: MSDS
- Colgate University Chemical Management: Material Safety Data Sheet Guide
Chris Steel began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in cooking, fitness and nutrition. He has also taught English for two years in Korea. Steel holds a bachelor's degree in sports sciences from Ohio University and an associate degree in culinary arts from Western Culinary Institute.