A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a safety document required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that contains data about the physical properties of a particular hazardous substance. MSDS sheets are created for a variety of hazard materials including compressed gases, flammable and combustible liquids, oxidizing materials, poisonous or infectious material, corrosive material and dangerously reactive materials.
The purpose of the Material Safety Data Sheet information is to convey chemical safety and hazard information to the end user (employees exposed to hazardous chemicals, employees who store dangerous chemicals, and emergency responders such as: firefighters, hazardous material crews, and emergency medical technicians). Material Data Safety Sheets are a critical component of the United States OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, which states that “anyone who might handle, work with or be exposed to hazardous materials must have access to the Material Safety Data Sheets.”
An MSDS sheet is a nine-section safety document detailing the toxicity, use, storage, handling and emergency procedures of hazardous substances. The MSDS describes chemical safety and hazards that may be involved with the product and safety measures that should be taken in order to minimize or avoid adverse outcomes that may result from chemical exposure, chemicals in the workplace, improper storage or handling of a hazardous substance, and chemical hazards. Material Safety Data Sheet information is intended to provide employees and emergency personnel with safety measures for handling or working with hazardous substances in a safe manner.
The OSHA requirements for MSDS format include placing the following categories on every Material Safety Data Sheet:
Section I. Manufacturer’s Name and Contact Information
Section II. Hazardous Ingredients/Identity Information
Section III. Physical/Chemical Characteristics
Section IV. Fire and Explosion Hazard Data
Section V. Reactivity Data
Section VI. Health Hazard Data
Section VII. Precautions for Safe Handling and Use
Section VIII. Control Measures
Both chemical manufacturers and employers with chemicals in the workplace must comply with GHS MSDS regulation. OSHA violations (failure to comply with OSHA requirements) may result in OSHA citations and OSHA penalties upwards of $70,000 per violation per instance.
MSDS Authoring Services offers full creation of a 16-part ANSI compliant Material Safety Data Sheet (more than current OSHA requirements). To learn more about MSDS Authoring Services’ offerings, please click here.
Below are the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s current guidelines for employer compliance.
Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR)
Guidelines for Employer Compliance (Advisory) – 1910. 1200 App E
Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR) – Table of Contents
- Part Number: 1910
- Part Title: Occupational Safety and Health Standards
- Subpart: Z
- Subpart Title: Toxic and Hazardous Substances
- Standard Number: 1910.1200 App E
- Title: Guidelines for Employer Compliance (Advisory)
“Material Safety Data Sheets”
Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to obtain or develop a Material Safety Data Sheet for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Distributors are responsible for ensuring that their customers are provided a copy of these MSDS sheets. Employers must have a MSDS data sheet for each hazardous material which they use. Employers may rely on the information received from their suppliers. There is no specified format for the MSDS under the rule, although there are specific information requirements. OSHA has developed a non-mandatory format, OSHA Form 174, which may be used by chemical manufacturers and importers to comply with the rule. The Material Safety Data Sheet must be in English. You are entitled to receive from your supplier a data sheet which includes all of the information required under the rule. If you do not receive one automatically, you should request one. If you receive one that is obviously inadequate, with, for example, blank spaces that are not completed, you should request an appropriately completed one. If your request for a data sheet or for a corrected data sheet does not produce the information needed, you should contact your local OSHA Area Office for assistance in obtaining the MSDS sheet.
The role of MSDS solutions under the rule is to provide detailed information on each hazardous chemical, including its potential hazardous effects, its physical and chemical characteristics, and recommendations for appropriate protective measures. This information should be useful to you as the employer responsible for designing protective programs, as well as to the workers. If you are not familiar with material data sheets and with chemical terminology, you may need to learn to use them yourself.
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Generally speaking, most employers using hazardous chemicals in the workplace will primarily be concerned with MSDS information regarding hazardous effects and recommended protective safety measures. Focus on the sections of the Material Safety Data Sheet information that are applicable to your situation.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be readily accessible to employees when they are in their work areas during their work shifts. This may be accomplished in many different ways. You must decide what is appropriate for your particular workplace. Some employers keep the MSDS information in a binder in a central location (e.g., in the pick-up truck on a construction site). Others, particularly in workplaces with hazardous chemicals, computerize the Material Safety Data Sheet information and provide access through terminals. As long as employees can get the MSDS information when they need it, any MSDS system approach may be used. The employees must have access to the Material Safety Data Sheet information themselves – simply having an MSDS system where the safety sheet information can be read to them over the phone is only permitted under the mobile worksite provision, when employees must travel between workplaces during the shift. In this situation, they have access to the MSDS information prior to leaving the primary worksite, and when they return, so the telephone system is simply an emergency arrangement.
In order to ensure that you have a current MSDS sheet for each chemical in the plant as required, and that employee access is provided, the compliance officers will be looking for the following types of information in your written program:
- Designation of person(s) responsible for obtaining and maintaining the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS);
- How such safety data sheets are to be maintained in the workplace (e.g., in notebooks in the work area(s) or in a computer with terminal access), and how employees can obtain access to them when they are in their work area during the work shift;
- Procedures to follow when the MSDS sheet is not received at the time of the first shipment;
- For producers, procedures to update the MSDS when new and significant health information is found; and,
- Description of alternatives to actual data sheets in the workplace, if used
For employers using hazardous substances, the most important aspect of the written program in terms of MSDS sheets is to ensure that someone is responsible for obtaining and maintaining the MSDS sheets for every hazardous chemical in the workplace. The list of hazardous chemicals required to be maintained as part of the written program will serve as an inventory. As new chemicals are purchased, the list should be updated. Many companies have found it convenient to include on their purchase orders the name and address of the person designated in their company to receive MSDS sheets.
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