MSDS are documents, normally many pages long, that travel with or ahead of hazardous chemical shipments, warning users of the specific dangers of such products and guidance on their safe handling, storage and disposal. Evaluating chemical hazards and producing MSDSs and labels for downstream users are two of the key responsibilities chemical manufacturers and distributors have under the HCS.

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is required under the U.S. OSHA Hazard Communication Standard . Most developed countries have similar regulations and requirements.  The MSDS is a detailed informational document prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a hazardous chemical.  It describes the physical and chemical properties of the product. MSDS’s contain useful information such as flash point, toxicity, procedures for spills and leaks, and storage guidelines. Information included in a Material Safety Data Sheet aids in the selection of safe products, helps you understand the potential health and physical hazards of a chemical and describes how to respond effectively to exposure situations. Although there is an effort currently underway to standardizes MSDS’s the quality of individual MSDS’s vary. A MSDS may be useful but it can not substitute for prudent practices and comprehensive risk management.

The requirements for MSDSs are found in paragraph (g) of 29 CFR 1910.1200 . MSDSs must be developed for hazardous chemicals used in the workplace, and must list the hazardous chemicals that are found in a product in quantities of 1% or greater, or 0.1% or greater if the chemical is a carcinogen. The MSDS does not have to list the amount that the hazardous chemical occurs in the product. Specifically.They are required as a part of any compliance obligation to be available and displayed prominently in the workplace. The public has a right to MSDS data upon request.  

They must be written in English and contain:

The name of the chemical (same as on the label)

The chemical and common names of the substance

A listing of the ingredients

A statement of the ingredients that are known carcinogens or that present other known hazards

Any specific hazards

In general, if your business uses hazardous chemicals (as opposed to manufacturing or importing them for sale to others) you should be able to obtain a MSDS from the manufacturer, so that you can post it in the workplace and keep it in your records.

Full Text of the OSHA MSDS Regulations

The links take you to OSHA pages of interpretations.


“Material safety data sheets.”


Chemical manufacturers and importers shall obtain or develop a material safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Employers shall have a material safety data sheet in the workplace for each hazardous chemical which they use.


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