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A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is official documentation of the properties of a given substance recorded on a form for easy viewing. Its purpose is to provide workers, consumers, and safety personnel with thorough information on potentially hazardous chemicals or components in a particular substance or product. The information contained on the sheet includes physical data, storage, handling and disposal.
Variations of MSDS forms can be found in several countries. Though the sheet can provide consumers with specific information on a product’s potentially harmful effects or contents, it is primarily designed to be of use to those who work with a substance or treat those who have been injured by accidental exposure or misuse of a product.
Material Safety Data Sheets are widely used and make cataloging information on chemicals easier and more efficient. Any workplace that uses a chemical-based product must have MSDS information accessible to its workers. Similarly, any product that contains potentially hazardous chemicals must be labeled with an appropriate warning symbol and the product must be able to be cross-referenced on the MSDS for specific information on handling and exposure.
Each country utilizing these forms have a specific organization in charge of mandating MSDS formats and contents as well as the regulations imposed upon manufacturers and employers. In the United States, the mandating organization is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In Canada, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) establishes the regulations.
Though formats of the sheets vary, the information contained on them is fairly consistent. While industrial and commercial businesses make the most use of MSDS forms, consumers can request one for any chemical product that they purchase. The information can be obtained from either the retailer or the manufacturer. Similarly, anyone performing work in a home that requires the use of chemicals, be it landscaping or extermination, can provide the owner with an MSDS for any product they might use.