What Are the Nine Categories on an MSDS?

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Chemicals are used in many business for a variety of reasons.
Chemicals are used in many business for a variety of reasons. (Image: Geir Pettersen/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all workplaces in the United States that handle potentially harmful or hazardous chemicals maintain and make available to their employees the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for each chemical. The MSDS contains important information about chemicals and their effects, proper handling and other areas of concern.

Manufacturer's Contact Information

Should it become necessary, MSDSs contain contact information for the maker of each chemical. This includes but is not limited to the product's name, manufacturer's name and address, distributor's name and emergency phone numbers.

Hazardous Ingredients

The hazardous ingredients section must have the chemical and common name of all toxic ingredients. It must also include OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), which is the highest amount of a chemical that can be inhaled regularly without adverse health effects.

Physical Data

It is also required to include a section pertaining to the physical characteristics of a chemical. These items include “boiling point, melting point, vapor pressure, vapor density, solubility in water, specific gravity, percent volatile, evaporation rate, appearance, and odor. Sometimes the pH is included for aqueous solutions,” according to Colgate University.

Fire/Explosion Hazard Data

To plan for fire-related emergencies, a fire or explosion data section must be included. This should include information on a product's flammability and the type of fire extinguisher needed to suppress a fire fueled by the specific chemical.

Reactivity Data

The reactivity section is generally divided into subcategories based on how a product reacts with another substance. The stability section covers information on the conditions under which the product can decompose. Incompatibility sections discuss chemicals the product should never be mixed with. The hazardous polymerization section discusses conditions under which the product can form into a polymer.

Toxicological Properties

A section devoted to the toxicological properties should cover several different areas. Method of entrance, be it skin, inhalation or ingestion, is one area covered. Other areas include symptoms of overexposure, acute and chronic health issues and whether or not the product has been listed as a carcinogen.

Preventative Measures

A section on preventative measures should include information about the safe handling and use of the product. Information in this section should cover the cleaning of spills and leaks, disposal of the chemical and concerns when repairing or maintaining equipment related to the chemical.

First-Aid Measures

Should a workplace accident occur, the MSDS contains a first-aid section. This area discusses the proper steps to take based upon the path of entry and symptoms that are presenting.

Preparation Information

The preparation information contains information on the proper measures to be taken when handling the chemical. This section discusses proper attire and protective gear needed such as goggles, gloves, respirators and clothing recommendations.

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