The Hazardous Communication Standard under OSHA states that employees need to know and have a right to know hazards and identities of chemicals they are exposed to while working.  More than 30 million workers are potentially exposed to one or more chemical hazards.  There are over 650,000 existing chemical hazards and new ones being developed annually.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) is a very important form designed to instruct workers and emergency personnel on procedures for handling/working with certain substances in a safe way.  This system catalogues information on chemicals, chemical compounds and chemical mixtures that contain potential hazardous materials.  MSDS are to be included with shipments of hazardous chemicals, and readily accessible to each work shift involved.  Labels, MSDS, and proper training are to be utilized to identify and prevent occupational injuries or health problems of workers.
Information included on MSDS forms in regard to chemicals:

  • Toxicity
  • Reactivity
  • Physical Data, i.e., boiling point, flash point, etc.
  • First Aid
  • Health Effects
  • Storage/Disposal
  • Spill Handling Procedures
  • Protective Equipment

MSDS should be country-specific and supplier-specific, as the same product may have different formulations in different countries.  A generic named product may have formulation and degree of hazard that varies between different manufacturers in the same country.
Other countries utilize MSDS with various titles:

  • Canada – Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System
  • European Union – Risk and Safety Management
  • Germany – German Federal Water Management Act
  • Netherlands – Milieu (Environment) Safety Data Sheets
  • United Kingdom – CHIP Regulations (Chemicals Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply)
  • United Nations – Defines certain details on MSDS, i.e., U.N. numbers that identify hazardous materials while in international transit.
  • United States – OSHA mandates MSDS are available to employees who may handle potentially harmful substances in the workplace.  It also requires MSDS be made available to local fire departments and local and state emergency planning officials.