Explanation of Material Safety Data Sheet Information

What is a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)?

What to do with MSDSs and where to find them

Understanding MSDS information

What is a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)?

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard requires manufacturers or distributors of hazardous materials to assess the physical and health hazards of the chemical or product. This information must be included in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

An MSDS must be provided to the purchaser of almost any chemical product with at least the initial shipment of the chemical. There are exceptions for food, cosmetics and household use chemicals.

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard requires MSDSs be obtained and maintained for almost every chemical used in the workplace (again, same exceptions apply). The OSHA Laboratory Standard requires laboratories and art studios to keep MSDSs that are received from the manufacturer. MSDSs must be accessible to all personnel during their work hours. These requirements are mirrored in the NYS Right-to-Know Laws and regulations.

While MSDSs must contain a certain set of information, there is not a specified format for presentation of that information. MSDSs may be several pages long or a single 3" * 5" index card.

MSDSs often present information on a product "as manufactured" as opposed to "as used". For instance, MSDS for White-out indicates spill response requires wearing a supplied air respirator and a full chemical resistant suit. While that attire is required to respond to a spill of White-out of several hundreds or thousands of gallons, White-Out is sold for use in containers of a less than a single ounce. Response to user-sized spills of White-Out typically involve little more than wiping up the spill with a tissue.

Questions as to the "user reality" of MSDSs should be directed to EHS.


What to do with MSDSs and where to find them

MSDSs are reviewed by EHS upon reciept. A copy is then forwarded to the Department that purchased the chemical. The Department maintains the MSDSs.

In addition to these Departmental hard copy MSDSs, many MSDSs are available via the World Wide Web. The following site has numerous MSDS links:

http://www.ilpi.com/msds/ Scroll down the page for links to chemical supply company MSDSs, pesticide and paint manufactuere and even Grainger.


Understanding MSDS information

The following explanation is provided to help campus personnel interpret the information found on manufacturers’ MSDSs. While the format of these data sheets varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, certain components appear on each sheet.


Product Identification

This section gives the name and address of the manufacturer and an emergency phone number where questions about toxicity and chemical hazards can be directed.

Product Name: Commercial or marketing name. Example: "Melt-Away Snow melter"
Synonym: Chemical name and/or synonyms: "rock salt, salt, sodium chloride"
Chemical Family: Group of chemicals with related physical and chemical properties: "salt"
Formula: Chemical formula, if applicable: "NaCl".

CAS Number: Number assigned to chemicals or materials by the Chemical Abstracts Service. The CAS number for rock salt is 7647-14-5.

Hazardous Ingredients Of Mixtures

This section lists the chemicals present in the product that comprise more than 1%, AND/OR all carcinogens.

The OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure limit (REL), and/or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) threshold limit value (TLV) will also be listed, if appropriate. The PELs applicable to public sector employees in New York State will not be listed on the MSDS. These PELs are listed in 12 NYCRR Part 800.

The PEL is usually expressed in parts per million parts of air (ppm) or milligrams of dust or vapor per cubic meter of air (mg/m3). It is usually a time-weighted average (TWA) . A time-weighted average is the concentration averaged over an eight-hour day.

Sometimes, an OSHA STEL or short term exposure limit may be listed. The STEL is a 15 minute TWA which should not be exceeded. An OSHA ceiling limit (c), is a concentration which may NOT be exceeded at any time, it is not a time-weighted average. A skin notation means that skin exposure is significant in contributing to the overall exposure.

Only the OSHA or PESH thresholds are enforceable by those regulatory agencies. The ACGIH thresholds or even a manufacturer recommended exposure level (REL) are recommendations.


Physical Data

This section outlines the physical properties of the material. The information may be used to determine conditions for exposure. For example, one can determine whether or not a chemical will form a vapor (vapor pressure), whether this vapor will rise or fall (the vapor density being lighter or heavier than air), and what the vapor should smell like (appearance and odor). This information assists with ventilation determinations. The following information is usually included:

Boiling Point: temperature at which liquid changes to vapor state
Melting Point: temperature at which a solid begins to change to liquid
Vapor Pressure: a measure of how volatile a substance is and therfore an indicator of how quickly that substance will evaporate. The VP of water (at 20o C) is 17.5 mm Hg, Vaseline (non-volatile) is close to 0 mm Hg, and diethyl ether (very volatile) is 440 mm Hg.
Vapor Density of gases (air = 1): weight of a gas or vapor compared to weight of an equal volume of air. Density greater than 1 indicates it is heavier than air, less than 1 indicates it is lighter than air. Vapors heavier than air will collect at floor level, or travel into a below grade area or stairwell. Vapors lighter than air will travel along ceilings.

Specific Gravity of liquids (water = 1): ratio of volume weight of material to equal volume weight of water. SG greater than 1 indicates the liquid is denser than water and will sink in water. SG of less than 1 (oils) indicates the liquid will float on water.

Solubility in Water: percentage of material that will dissolve in water, usually at ambient (room) temperature. Since the much of the human body is made of water, water soluble substances, if allowed to enter the body can easily be distributed throughout the body.
Appearance/Odor: color, physical state at room temperature, size of particles, consistency.

% Volatile by Volume: Percentage of a liquid or solid, by volume, that evaporates at a temperature of 70oF.
Evaporation Rate: usually expressed as a time ratio with ethyl ether = 1, unless otherwise specified.
Viscosity: internal resistance to flow exhibited by a fluid.

Other Pertinent Physical Data: information such as freezing point is given, as appropriate.


Fire And Explosion Hazard Data

This section includes information regarding the flammability of the product and information for fighting fires involving the product.

Flashpoint: the lowest temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapor to ignite when a source of ignition is present. It is not actually the liquid of flammable liquids, such as gasoline, that burn. Flammable liquids evaporate vapors that mix with the air to form a flammable vapor mixture. If an ignition source (spark, flame, etc.) is introduced into this vapor mixture, the vapor mixture will burn.
Flammable Limits: the lower explosive limit (LEL) and upper explosive limit (UEL) define the range of concentration of a gas or vapor in air at which burning can occur. For instance, an automobile carburetor controls the mixture of gasoline vapor and air - too lean (not enough vapor – below LEL) or too rich (too much vapor and not enough air, as when you flood your engine – above UEL), will not ignite.
Extinguishing Media: appropriate fire extinguishing agent(s) for the material.
Fire or Explosion Hazards: Hazards and/or conditions which may cause fire or explosions are defined.


Health Hazard Data

This section defines the medical signs and symptoms that may be encountered with normal exposure or overexposure to this material or its components. Information on the toxicity of the substance may also be presented. Results of animal studies are most often given. i.e. LD50 (mouse)=250 mg/kg. Usually expressed in weight of chemical per kg of body weight. LD50 or lethal dose 50 is the dose of a substance which will cause the death of half the experimental animals. LC50 is the concentration of the substance in air which will cause the death of half the experimental animals.

Health hazard information may also include the effects of acute (short term) and chronic (long-term) exposure and symptoms of overexposure.


Emergency And First Aid Procedures

Based on the toxicity of the product, degree of exposure and route of contact (eye, skin, inhalation, ingestion, injection), emergency and first aid procedures are recommended in this section.

Additional cautionary statements, i.e., Note to Physician, for first aid procedures, when necessary, will also appear here.


Reactivity Data

This section includes information regarding the stability of the material and any special storage or use considerations.

Stability: "unstable" indicates that a chemical may decompose spontaneously or explode under normal temperatures, pressures, and mechanical shocks. Conditions to avoid are listed in this section.
Incompatibility: certain chemicals, when mixed, may create hazardous conditions. Incompatible chemicals should not be stored together.
Hazardous Decomposition Products: chemical substances, including vapors or gases, which may be result from chemical decomposition or burning.
Hazardous Polymerization: rapid polymerization may produce enough heat to cause containers to explode. Conditions to avoid are listed in this section.


Spill, Leak And Disposal Procedures

This section outlines general procedures, precautions and methods for cleanup of spills. Appropriate waste disposal methods are provided for safety and environmental protection.


Personal Protection Equipment Information

This section includes general information about appropriate personal protective equipment for handling this material. Many times, this section of the MSDS is written for large-scale use of the material. Appropriate personal protection may be determined by considering the amount of the material being used and the actual manipulations to be performed.

Eye Protection: Wearing eye protection at all times when working with chemical products is a good general safety practice. Eye Protection is required when working with products that are corrosive, irritants or reactive.
Skin Protection: Protective garments and appropriate glove materials are typically identified.
Respiratory Protection: If use of the product may result in airborne concentrations exceeding occupational exposure limits, this section will identify appropriate respirators.
Ventilation: some manufacturers will provide recommendations for air flow schemes (general, local) to limit hazardous substances in the atmosphere.