Material Safety Data Sheets

The importance of MSDSs

Many products carry specific health risks, and knowing how to properly deal with any chemical hazards in your workplace is crucial. And the more comprehensive the information, the better for your business and your employees – accidents and lawsuits can be avoided if everyone adheres to the same rules and procedures. Protect yourself, your business and your employees with updated and inclusive material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for every industrial product that you use.

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Sheets for Chemical Safety

Material safety data sheets are chemical safety documents that list potential chemical hazards and how to avoid them in the workplace. Designed primarily for industrial or occupational use, each sheet contains information about the properties of a particular substance, and explains how to work with it safely. You will find everything from toxicity and health effects to necessary safety equipment and spill-handling procedures thoroughly explained in an MSDS.

There is no standard format for an MSDS: sheets may have different layouts, but they all function as the foundation of a complete health and safety plan for a business. MSDSs are not intended to replace safety training, but rather supplement other safety measures and provide a reference for specific products. Each country has its own laws that guide MSDS content, but every MSDS should provide very specific health information and first aid instructions. The data sheets are prepared by the supplier or manufacturer of the substance, and since the same product can have different formulations in different countries, the MSDS should be customized for the country in which the product is sold.

MSDS Database

An easy way to access a variety of material safety data sheets is to search an online database. An MSDS database may be industry-specific, such as an agro-chemical database, or it may include sheets on a variety of chemical products. The database will be free to search, and you will be able to download and print safety sheets for any product that is listed. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires that the MSDS collection of any business be easily accessible for all employees – even though you can consult the Internet for information, you'll need to have a hard copy at the workplace as well.

Originally, material safety data sheets were meant for specialists like occupational hygienists and safety professionals, so the sheets can be loaded with unfamiliar terms. Luckily, some MSDS databases offer helpful tools that allow you to plug in your electronic MSDS document and have those unknown terms link to a glossary.

You'll want to ensure that you understand the information in each MSDS and read it through as soon as possible to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Although you may find old material safety data sheets piling up, they should not be thrown away. You never know when a chemical that was previously considered to be harmless will be deemed hazardous, and in some cases OSHA requires that you hold on to all MSDSs for at least 30 years.