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Material Safety Data Sheets

Explanation of Material Safety Data Sheets


The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a detailed information bulletin prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a chemical that describes the physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control measures. Information on an MSDS aids in the selection of safe products and helps prepare employers and employees to respond effectively to daily exposure situations as well as to emergency situations.

Sections of an MSDS and Their Significance

What information is provided on an MSDS?

OSHA specifies the information to be included on an MSDS, but does not prescribe the precise format for an MSDS. A non-mandatory MSDS form that meets the Hazard Communication Standard requirements has been issued and can be used as is or expanded as needed. The MSDS must be in English and must include at least the following information:

[Section I] [Section II] [Section III] [Section IV] [Section V] [Section VI] [Section VII] [Section VIII]

Section I. Chemical Identity

The chemical and common name(s) must be provided for single chemical substances.

An identity on the MSDS must be cross-referenced to the identity found on the label.

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Section II. Hazardous Ingredients

For a hazardous chemical mixture that has been tested as a whole to determine its hazards, the chemical and common names of the ingredients that are associated with the hazards, and the common name of the mixture must be listed.

If the chemical is a mixture that has not been tested as a whole the chemical and common names of all ingredients determined to be health hazards and comprising 1 percent or greater of the composition must be listed.

Chemical and common names of carcinogens must be listed if they are present in the mixture at levels of 0.1 percent or greater.

All components of a mixture that have been determined to present a physical hazard must be listed.

Chemical and common names of all ingredients determined to be health hazards and comprising less than 1 percent (0.1 percent for carcinogens) of the mixture must also be listed if they can still exceed an established Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) or Threshold Limit Value (TLV) or present a health risk to exposed employees in these concentrations.

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Section III. Physical and Chemical Characteristics

The physical and chemical characteristics of the hazardous substance must be listed. These include items such as boiling and freezing points, density, vapor pressure, specific gravity, solubility, volatility, and the product's general appearance and odor. These characteristics provide important information for designing safe and healthful work practices.

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Section IV. Fire and Explosion Hazard Data

The compound's potential for fire an explosion must be described. Also, the fire hazards of the chemical and the conditions under which it could ignite or explode must be identified. Recommended extinguishing agents and fire-fighting methods must be described.

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Section V. Reactivity Data

This section presents information about other chemicals and substances with which it reacts. Information on any hazardous decomposition products, such as carbon monoxide, must be included.

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Section VI. Health Hazards

The acute and chronic health hazards of the chemical, together with signs and symptoms of exposure, must be listed. In addition, any medical conditions that are aggravated by exposure to the compound, must be included. The specific types of chemical health hazards defined in the standard include carcinogens, corrosives, toxins, irritants, sensitizers, mutagens, teratogens, and effects on target organs (i.e., liver, kidney, nervous system, blood, lungs, mucous membranes, reproductive system, skin, eyes, etc.).

The route of entry section describes the primary pathway by which the chemical enters the body. There are three principal routes of entry: inhalation, skin, and ingestion.

This section of the MSDS supplies the OSHA PEL, the ACGIH TLV, and other exposure levels used or recommended by the chemical manufacturer.

If the compound is listed as a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) by OSHA, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), or the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), this information must be indicated on the MSDS.

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Section VII. Precautions for Safe Handling and Use

The standard requires the preparer to describe the precautions for safe handling and use. These include recommended industrial hygiene practices, precautions to be taken during repair and maintenance of equipment, and procedures for cleaning up spills and leaks. Some manufacturers also use this section to include useful information not specifically required by the standard, such as EPA waste disposal methods and state and local requirements.

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Section VIII. Control Measures

The standard requires the preparer of the MSDS to list any generally applicable control measures. These include engineering controls, safe handling procedures, and personal protective equipment. Information is often included on the use of goggles, gloves, body suits, respirators, and face shields.

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