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What is an MSDS?

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Quick Answer

An MSDS, or material safety data sheet, provides physical data and handling information on potentially dangerous materials. It is not intended for consumers but is used in occupational situations. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency require MSDS' to comply with the Hazard Communication Standard and other federal and state guidelines.

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Full Answer

For chemicals, chemical compounds and other hazardous materials, MSDS' include information such as the identity of the substance, the name of the manufacturer, a listing of hazardous ingredients, physical and chemical characteristics, fire and explosion limitations and hazards, reactivity details, specific health hazards, safety precautions and control measures. Although lengths and formats of MSDS' vary, they all contain the same basic information.

MSDS' are used by employers who handle the storage and dissemination of hazardous materials, workers who regularly use hazardous materials, and emergency workers, such as hazardous material teams, fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. They are not used by those who work with food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and radioactive and biological hazards. Anyone who writes an MSDS must follow OSHA's guidelines, and there is no official review for approval. However, anyone who writes or alters an MSDS assumes significant legal responsibilities in the event of investigations or lawsuits.

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