An MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheet is a document the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires manufacturers to provide. Employers are required to give employees access to the MSDS’s for the chemicals with which they are working. There are advantages and disadvantages to each MSDS.
One main use for an MSDS is to provide precautionary information about a chemical product—especially useful for those who deal with chemicals on a day-to-day basis. MSDSes are created by manufacturers to warn users of potential threats and risks—to encourage proper handling and use. By providing proper precaution, employees can work with dangerous chemicals with less chance of negative exposure.
Knowing the properties of a chemical, as well as who manufactures it, can be extremely important—especially when time is of the essence. Knowing the properties allows the exposed person to seek the correct kind of treatment. OSHA requires MSDSes to include the ingredients and chemicals used within hazardous materials. Each MSDS must include the name and information about each specific hazardous material, name and location of the manufacturer, first-aid procedures, emergency telephone numbers, regulatory information, control for exposure and several other useful pieces of information.
Advantage: Readily Accessible
Employers are required to distribute copies to employees and post one in a position considered readily accessible. By requiring employers to keep an MSDS for each chemical used—as well as within direct access to employees—it further contributes to the help that an MSDS can provide in an emergency situation.
Disadvantage: Lack of Structure
The main downside to an MSDS is that OSHA does not require specific formatting; therefore, the required information can be in a different—and potentially confusing—order for each MSDS. Though companies are required to supply a specific set of information, the lack of a uniform format could be a potential danger to employers and employees.