A Short Primer on Materials Safety Data Sheets

By: James Kara Murat

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Safety is of the utmost importance in the workplace. If workers are confident that their workplace is free from safety hazards and that the materials they are working with are not harmful to them, then they can work more easily and much more happily.

This is why it is important for employers to make sure that they have all the materials safety data sheets or MSDS for all the materials and equipment that they use at hand. Even more so, employers should make sure that the MSDS that they have are always updated and no more than three years old.

What is an MSDS?

A materials safety data sheet or MSDS is a form of document that is supposed to contain all information on potential dangers presented by certain chemicals or substances whenever they are handled by people.

These dangers include possible harm to health, fire hazards, environmental hazards as well as radioactivity. An MSDS is also supposed to indicate proper ways of handling the material it pertains to, as well as what to do in case danger does arise from mishandling the material.

Everyone is allowed to have access to an MSDS, but the ordinary consumer who does not really interact with the chemical or the substance an MSDS pertains to is not required to read or understand it if his or her exposure to the substance is very seldom, around once a year or less.

However, employers and employees who do have to work with a certain chemical substance must not just have a copy of the MSDS of the materials they are working with but must also read and understand it fully well. After all, there may come a time when a life would be dependent on the knowledge and understanding these employers and employees may have of the MSDS of the product they are dealing with.

How to Find an MSDS

If a person needs to find the MSDS of a product or substance that he or she works with on a daily basis, there are many ways to get a-hold of a copy. The first source should be the people in charge of the materials requisitioning in his or her workplace, since every workplace should have updated MSDS of the materials they handle.

If an updated MSDS is not available at the workplace, then the supplier of the materials can be requested for a copy. Should they fail to provide this copy, the next place to go would be the local occupational health office. There are also free online resources where one could go and look for MSDS of various products.

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