MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) is the old term for SDS (Safety Data Sheets) and were a vital part of complying with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). In 2012, the HCS was updated to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), a universal standard, and MSDS simply became SDS. 

MSDSs were less user-friendly and standardized than the newer SDSs, which have a consistent 16-section format. However, people still search for the phrase “MSDS” which is why there is information that redirects the user to this new format, which was officially put in place in 2015

Employers are required to have SDSs readily accessible to employees for reference when regarding dangerous substances that they may come into contact with. The sixteen sections of current safety data sheets are as follows:

  1. Identification Information:
    • Identifies the chemical and its other names if there are any
    • The substance’s recommended use and any restrictions given by the supplier
    • The manufacturer’s information (name, address, phone number), emergency phone number, and anyone else who is responsible for that chemical
  2. Hazard(s) Identifications:
    • The hazard classification, precautionary statement(s), and signal word
    • Appropriate GHS pictogram
    • Other hazards not classified
    • Mixtures that have unknown toxicity and the percentage of various ingredients that also have unknown toxicity
  3. Information on Ingredients/Composition:
    • Name and synonyms of a substance, CAS number, and other identifiers if needed, and additives used for stabilizing the substance/any impurities
    • The same identification as substances is also needed for mixtures as well as the percentages and concentration information
    • If there is a trade secret, then this must be stated on the document since information is withheld
  4. First-Aid in Case of Emergency:
    • First aid instructions including the most common and serious reactions and the recommendation for medical treatment
  5. Fire-Fighting Measures:
    • Recommendations on extinguishing equipment, specific hazards from the fire, and recommendations for special PPE used by firefighters
  6. Accidental Release Measures:
    • Includes the use of PPE, personal precautions, and the appropriate emergency procedures
    • The methods and materials that are used for containment of the substance
    • The cleanup procedure
  7. Handling and Storage:
    • Includes precautions of safe handling for unstable chemicals, therefore, minimizing the release in case of accidents
    • General hygiene practices
  8. Exposure Controls/PPE:
    • Includes PEL (Permissible Exposure Limits), AGCIH Threshold Limit Values (TLV), PPE, and other information that the manufacturers and handlers will need for an MSDS/SDS
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties:
    • Lists all the chemical’s characteristics
  10. Stability/Reactivity:
    • Lists possible hazardous reactions and chemical stability
  11. Toxicological Information:
    • Lists how one may be exposed and what kind of symptoms may appear/chronic effects
  12. Environmental Effect:
    • If released into the environment, this section includes the consequences on plant and animal life
    • Includes the potential of a substance leaching into groundwater
  13.  Disposal Considerations:
    • Appropriate disposal of the material
    • Any special precautions when disposing of the substance
  14. Transport Information:
    • Information on transport by road, air, railway, or sea. These regulations are more in-depth when regarding CFR 49
  15. Regulatory Information:
    • This section is for all other information regarding the substance that is not included anywhere else in the SDS document
  16. Other Information:
    • Includes the employer’s responsibilities regarding the organization of the SDS/MSDS information as well as designating a person to be in charge of them

This is meant to be a very brief overview of the sections in SDS/MSDS documents and to point users in the correct direction. There is more in-depth information on OSHA’s website as well as in CFR 29 Appendix D 1910.1200.


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