Material Safety Data Sheets, commonly abbreviated MSDS, are documents that contain data for handling and working with specific chemicals found in a specific workplace. The information contained within MSDSs consists of details about the physical and chemical properties of the chemical, such as melting point, boiling point, flash point, and such, as well as hazards associated with the chemical, such as health, storage cautions, flammability, radioactivity, reactivity, toxicity, and the like, in addition to proper emergency procedures for dealing with the chemical.
At least three groups of people depend upon MSDSs to ensure correct procedures in working with and handling the various chemicals contained within their workplace: employers, employees, and emergency personnel. Employers utilize MSDSs to ascertain the proper methods for storing and working with the chemical, taking into account temperatures, reactivity, toxicity, and all other properties of the chemical when deciding where and how it will be used. Employees are benefited by MSDSs when they work near or with chemicals, and must know how to properly treat the chemicals and which hazardous situations must be avoided. And lastly, emergency personnel must consult MSDS sheets when responding to any incident potentially involving chemicals in order to take into account the effect these chemicals may have on their health and their fire suppression or lifesaving plan of attack.
In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA), requires that MSDS be available to employees within any work environment containing potentially hazardous chemicals. Additionally, fire departments, as well as local and state emergency planning officials must possess MSDS sheets. Some products come with MSDSs included, or can be easily found online. Given the ubiquity of MSDS sheets, there is no need for any workplace or consumer to be ignorant of the dangers that any chemicals can pose within their workspace or home.
Although MSDS sheets can appear complicated or confusing at first, the information contained within them is clear, concise, and unambiguous. If a consumer has any difficulty in interpreting the data, a simple online search will produce assistance with reading the MSDS sheets. It is imperative that all employees are familiar with the data contained within the MSDS sheet before an emergency occurs---there is often not enough time to be reading the MSDS sheet for the first time while dealing with extenuating circumstances. However, an attempt at making the information as unambiguous as possible is always made when writing the MSDSs, since the manufacturers of these products understand that often MSDSs will be referred to in such extenuating circumstances.
A Material Safety Data Sheet can be found for Cease Fire’s Dry Agent here. It is a one-page description of the name, physical and chemical properties, fire and explosion hazards, reactivity data, health hazard assessments, spill or leak procedures, and special protection information of Cease Fire’s proprietary Dry Agent. This is a good example of the kinds of products and information you will find MSDS sheets used for. If you have questions about this MSDS sheet, call our office or send us an email, and we’d be happy to clarify things for you!