What is a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)?

Definition: A material safety data sheet or MSDS is a written document that explains the potential dangers of a given substance. It describes the characteristics of the substances being handled.

What Does Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) Mean?

These data sheets are normally created for work-environment purposes, to inform employees about the threats of handling different substances and ways to effectively deal with any emergency that may arise during the job. They are mandatory in most countries as part of company’s work safety programs and they have a basic structure that can be found most of the times.

These data sheets contain information that can also inform emergency responders to assist an injured person properly. The sheet must normally contain the following data: name and contact information of the manufacturer, physical and chemical properties, health hazards, precautions for safe storage and handling, fire or explosion hazard data, first aid measures, reactivity data and hazardous ingredients, among other elements. The way this data sheet must be drafted varies depending on each country’s legislation. In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the institution in charge of issuing the parameters for drafting a MSDSs.

Example

Clean Homes Co. is a company that manufactures domestic cleaning products for the retail market. The company has two different plants located in Arkansas and Oklahoma. As part of their job safety program the company commissioned an external consultant to review the proper drafting and distribution of Material Safety Data Sheets for each of the substances employed in the manufacturing process.

One of the substances employed is Ammonium Hydroxide, for which the MSDSs stated some of the following information: Manufactured by Dow Chemicals Co.; Ingredients: 27% ammonia and 69% water; Potential Hazards: Skin contact should be avoided because of potential corrosive effect and over-exposure will lead to death.; First aid measures:

Wash with abundant water and soap if it makes contact with the skin; Non-flammable.