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Material Safety Data Sheet Info

What is a MSDS?

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS's) are detailed informational documents which describe the physical and chemical properties of a hazardous chemical. These documents are prepared by the manufacturer of the chemical. The Hazard Communication Standard (Federal Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200 or for Washington state WAC 296-62-054) also known as the "Right -to-Know" law enacted in 1985 sets forth the following requirements:

  • It is the responsibility of the manufacturer of a material to determine what hazards are associated with the material, to prepare an MSDS for the material, and to provide the MSDS to any recipients of the material.
  • It is the responsibility of an employer to provide MSDS's and training in their interpretation to the employees. MSDS's for hazardous materials must be readily available in the workplace.
  • It is the responsibility of the employees to read and understand the MSDS's of any chemicals used on the job.

What information is required on an MSDS?

Manufacturers must include the following information:

  • Chemical Identity
    The identity of the substance as it appears on the label.
  • Section I. Manufacturer's Name and Contact Information
    Manufacturer's name, address, telephone number and emergency telephone number. Date the MSDS was prepared and an optional signature of the preparer.
  • Section II. Hazardous Ingredients/Identity Information
    Lists the hazardous components by chemical identity and other common names. Includes OSHA PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit), ACGIH TLV (Threshold Level Value) and other recommended exposure limits. Percentage listings of the hazardous components is optional.
  • Section III. Physical/Chemical Characteristics
    Boiling point, vapor pressure, vapor density, specific gravity, melting point, evaporation rate, solubility in water, physical appearance and odor.
  • Section IV. Fire and Explosion Hazard Data
    Flash point (and method used to determine it), flammability limits, extinguishing media, special fire fighting procedures, unusual fire and explosion hazards.
  • Section V. Reactivity Data
    Stability, conditions to avoid, incompatibility (materials to avoid), hazardous decomposition or byproducts, hazardous polymerization (and conditions to avoid).
  • Section VI. Health Hazard Data
    Routes of entry (inhalation, skin, ingestion), health hazards (acute = immediate and chronic = build up over time), carcinogenicity (NTP, IARC monographs, OSHA regulated), signs and symptoms of exposure, medical conditions generally aggravated by exposure, emergency and first aid procedures.
  • Section VII. Precautions for Safe Handling and Use
    Steps to be taken in case material is released or spilled, waste disposal method, precautions to be taken in handling or storage, other precautions.
  • Section VIII. Control Measures
    Respiratory protection (specify type), ventilation (local, mechanical exhaust, special or other), protective gloves, eye protection, other protective clothing or equipment, work/hygienic practices.

How do I read an MSDS?

MSDS's were initially written for health and safety personnel so the information is quite technical. No standard format was required for MSDS's so presentation of the information can differ from one manufacturer to another for the same chemical. Reading an MSDS can seem somewhat overwhelming initially but with a little experience it gets easier. The following are suggestions from personal experience for looking up information most often needed from an MSDS - this information is not intended to be all inclusive - MSDS's should be read in their entirety before working with any chemical. Resources for more detailed information on reading an MSDS are - your instructor, the stockroom manager, the Chem Lab manager and the EH&S department - see contact and reference information below.

  1. Sect. 1 - Locate the name of the chemical - double check that you are looking at the correct MSDS for that chemical by verifying the molecular formula and the CAS #.
  2. Sect. 2 - Describes the hazardous ingredients which comprise ≥ 1% of the chemical.
  3. Sect. 3 - Provides physical properties such as boiling point, specific gravity, freezing and melting point, appearance and odor.
  4. Sect. 4 - Describes fire and explosion data such as flash point, explosive limits, fire fighting procedures and extinguishing agents.
  5. Sect. 5 - Provides known health hazards such as animal toxicity data, effects of exposure and emergency and first aid procedures.
  6. Sect. 6 - Provides reactivity data such as stability, incompatibilities, and hazardous decomposition products.
  7. Sect. 7 - Gives environmental information - spill and leak procedures and waste disposal.
  8. Sect. 8 - Provides PPE information - ventilation requirements, protective gloves, and eye and face protection needed.
  9. Sect. 9 - Lists handling and storage precautions.
  10. Sect. 10 - Miscellaneous info - transportation info, comments, warnings.

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Where can I find additional help reading MSDS's?


Tony BrownStockroom ManagerSci Rm 303(509)
Julie KhylerSafety RepresentativeSci Rm 207c(509)
Jim HudsonIndustrial HygienistCampus Safety Building(509)
Ron Munsoncampus EH&S OfficerCampus Safety Building(509)

On the Internet

Where do I find MSDS's?

In the Chemistry Department

Hard copies of MSDS's for all chemicals in the Chemistry department are located in the Chemistry stockroom (Sci 303), in each research lab for lab specific chemicals, and at the MSDS Workstation in the hall outside Sci 311. For a copy of the MSDS - take the appropriate binder to the Chem office (Sci 302) and the secretary will make a copy. Do not remove the MSDS from the binder.

On the Internet

Various MSDS search methodologies links.