Keeping your workers safe from reasonably avoidable harm while on the job is your greatest responsibility as an employer. When you consider that a worker gets injured on the job every 7 seconds, it’s crucial for you to ensure that all appropriate safety guidelines are met. One of these requirements that may get ignored if the job doesn’t deal with chemicals on a regular basis is the need for Material Safety Data Sheets.
What is a Material Safety Data Sheet, and why is it so important for every business, no matter the industry to have them? What information do these sheets contain? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Material Safety Data Sheets?
First, let’s nail down the Material Safety Data Sheet definition. Material Safety Data Sheets are detailed documents created by a chemical manufacturer or importer. This document contains information on a specific substance’s physical and chemical properties.
The information contained in an MSDS can include its flash point, storage guidelines, procedures to follow in a spill, toxicity, and carcinogen levels. We’ll discuss what each section of the MSDS covers in our Material Safety Data Sheets guide below.
What Information Can You Find on an MSDS?
Material Safety Data Sheets cover a lot of information. So, for this guide, we’ll go over a basic breakdown of the information located in each segment of the document. The information you’ll see on typical Material Safety Data Sheets includes:
Sections 1-4: Identification and First Aid
In sections 1-4 of the MSDS for a substance, you’ll find basic identifying information. Section 1 identifies the substance and its manufacturer. It also shows the emergency contact information for both the manufacturing company and the MSDS provider. Section 2 covers the chemical composition of the ingredients. It identifies the concentrations of each ingredient and any known toxins in the batch.
Section 3 identifies the hazards posed by a particular chemical, including a detailed breakdown of the organs they target and how they can harm them. Section 4 then details the first aid measures that you will need to take in the event of accidental exposure to the organs, both internal and external.
Sections 5-8: Fires, Storage, Spills, and PPE
Sections 5-8 govern the handling of the substance outlined in the MSDS. Section 5 in particular details how you should handle a fire that involves this substance breaking out. This is crucial information to know because as many a new cook has learned to their peril, you never throw water on a grease fire.
Section 6 covers what you need to do in the event of an accidental spill. Section 7 lists the appropriate storage and handling measures. This ensures that you don’t store chemicals highly reactive with one another too close together. Section 8 then covers the type of personal protective equipment, or PPE, that you will need to clean, handle, and store the chemical in question.
Sections 9-12: Understanding the Properties
Sections 9-12 dive deep into the specific properties of a substance. Section 9 specifically covers the physical and chemical properties of the substance, including its color, odor, viscosity, pH, water solubility, and a host of other things. Section 10 then dives into a substance’s reactivity. This includes any substances that it should or should not be mixed or stored with, for your safety.
Section 10 would be the section that warns you never to mix bleach with ammonia, for instance. It would also cover if a substance is safe frozen, but not in a liquid or gaseous state.
Section 11 covers the toxicology of the substance. This includes the risks of short and long-term exposure, whether or not the substance is cancerous, if it can cause mutations in genetic code, or even if it’s simply an irritant. Section 12 offers similar information, but with a focus on the environment, as opposed to the human body.
Sections 13-16: Disposal, Transport, and Other Information
Sections 13-16 mostly cover how to dispose of or transport the materials listed in the Material Safety Data Sheets. Sections 13-15 are non-mandatory per current OSHA regulations but still possess valuable information.
Section 13 covers disposal procedures, including any special containers you may need to use, whether you can recycle a substance, and any precautions for landfill disposal. Section 14 goes over the guidelines for transporting the substance over rail, land, air, or sea. This includes any relevant guidelines about bulk transportation for the chemical in question.
Section 15 covers the regulatory information from OSHA, the CDC, the EPA, or any other federal governing body that hasn’t already been mentioned elsewhere on the sheet. Section 16, aptly labeled, “Other Information” simply holds any further information regarding the substance that wasn’t better suited to place elsewhere in the document.
Why Are Material Safety Data Sheets So Important?
Now that you understand the information that goes on each MSDS sheet, let’s talk about why these sheets are so important. Why is it so crucial that you either purchase a standard MSDS book or go to a site like Online MSDS to get this information?
Aside from the fact that you will run afoul of OSHA and a lawsuit if anything were to go wrong, that is.
Let’s say, in the process of cleaning your bathrooms or disinfecting surfaces, your employee’s hand gets exposed to a caustic chemical.
You recommend that they wash their hands with soap and water since you don’t have an MSDS handy. The chemical reacts poorly with one of these substances. Now, you have far worse employee injuries to contend with, and you look negligent in the eyes of the law. Not an ideal situation.
Let’s Review What We’ve Learned
Material Safety Data Sheets are, in a sense, the instruction manuals and extensive dev notes for a given substance. They cover all its properties, how to handle and store it, and what to do if someone gets exposed. They are a crucial resource for any business intent on remaining OSHA compliant.
Did you find our Material Safety Data Sheets guide helpful? Would you like more tips on how to keep your business running safely? If so, then check out the Business section of our blog for more content like this!