What is an MSDS?
MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet. It is the technical information that lists the classification of the chemical or material and its corrosive, toxic, and polluting nature. The hazards in use and the precautions to be taken by personnel are also listed. The importance of an MSDS in constructional technology is that it educates personnel about the various health hazards of the chemicals used, as well as paramedics and fire fighters on how to respond to any accident.
The sheet also explains the antidote and the action to be taken if accidental contact has been made with the chemical. MSDS are generally used in industries and are not for domestic use but for guarding against occupational hazards. It is very important in a safety work culture that an MSDS is present and accessible to workers. It is in fact the start of any safety culture. If any company is employing non English speaking workers, it is the company’s responsibility to give translated versions of the MSDS to such workers in their native language.
MSDS are required only for those materials which are known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that the employees may be exposed to them under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency.
Information in Material Safety Data Sheet
The Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS as it is called, is a form that contains the essential details of the product that are useful in emergency response procedures. Information on an MSDS includes:
- Product name, chemical name, and chemical formula.
- Composition and information on ingredients.
- Toxicological data on ingredients.
- Hazards identification like potential acute health hazards and potential chronic health hazards.
- First aid measures in case of eye contact, skin contact, serious skin contact, inhalation, serious inhalation, ingestion, serious ingestion, etc.
- Fire and explosion data like flammability of the product, auto ignition temperature, flash points, flammable limits, fire fighting media and instructions, etc.
- Accidental release measures like small spills and large spills.
- Notes on handling and storage, such as precautions to be taken and storage conditions.
- Notes on exposure controls and personnel protection, like the amount of ventilation to be provided in the stores and the air changes per hour, the protective equipment to be worn by personnel, and the acceptable exposure limits.
- Physical and chemical properties, like physical state and appearance, odor, taste, color, pH, boiling point, melting point, critical temperature, specific gravity, solubility, etc.
- Stability and reactivity data, like stability, instability temperature, conditions of instability, incompatibility with various substances, corrosivity, etc.
- Toxicological information like toxicity to animals, chronic effects on humans, etc.
- Ecological information like biological oxygen demand, products of bio-degradation, and toxicity of the products of bio degradation.
- Disposal methods.
- Transportation methods and precautions.
- Other information specific to the product.
Need of MSDS
Besides being required by the law for all construction, chemical, and process industries, it is also the moral and ethical duty of each and every employer to make an MSDS accessible to workers and those who can be affected by the substance, like end users. The MSDS is a life saver at times as it advises the workers and the emergency response personnel, like paramedics and fire fighters, on how to handle the product and respond to cases of contact or ingestion.
In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, requires us to ensure that all the hazards of chemicals that are produced or are imported to the US are evaluated and that the information about these hazards are communicated to employers and their employees.