MSDS FAQ

This MSDS FAQ is provided as a resource for EHS professionals and people new to MSDS management.


Module specific FAQs are available from each module page.


What is an MSDS? / What is an MSDS certificate? / What is an MSDS for a chemical?

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document that contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and how to work safely with the chemical product. It is an essential starting point for the development of a complete health and safety program. It also contains information on the use, storage, handling and emergency procedures all related to the hazards of the material.

MSDSs are prepared by the supplier or manufacturer of the material. It is intended to tell what the hazards of the product are, how to use the product safely, what to expect if the recommendations are not followed, what to do if accidents occur, how to recognize symptoms of overexposure, and what to do if such incidents occur.

What is an SDS? / What is a SDS sheet?

OSHA has modified the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to conform to the United Nations' (UN) Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The HCS uses the term "material safety data sheet" or "MSDS", while the GHS uses "safety data sheet" or "SDS".

SDSs provide more detailed hazard information about the product than the label. They are an important resource for workplaces and workers to help you learn more about the product(s) used. Use this information to identify the hazards of the products you use and to protect yourself from those hazards, including safe handling and emergency measures.

Is it MSDS or SDS?

MSDS is the antiquated term for SDS. However, not only the name has changed. For a detailed explanation of the change see:

What is on a MSDS?

Originally, OSHA's HazCom outlined a Form 20 for conveying chemical safety information. This preceded the 9 section MSDS. Finally, before going away there were 16 sections like we see today on the SDS.

Since the MSDS is no longer the standard, you should refer to the question below to find information on an SDS.

What is on a SDS?

Contrary to what may be logically inferred by the name Globally Harmonized System (GHS), what is required to be on an SDS is often country specific. However, to be considered an SDS it must meet the 16 section designed seen on either example in the links below.

What is the MSDS book?

The yellow binder, or MSDS book, at a place of business is a resource for employees and should contain all chemicals in use at the facility. Many companies have gone away from keeping MSDS/SDS files in paper copies due to inconvenience and labor costs. Primarily MSDS/SDS databases are now hosted online through third party systems. is an MSDS Management company with 30 years of experience managing MSDS databases.

Why do we need MSDS sheets? / Why are safety data sheets important? / Why is it important to have a MSDS?

OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard requires all employers provide access to MSDS sheets for employees. HazCom is the law. Employees have the Right to Know what chemicals they are exposed to in the work place.

Where can the MSDS be found?

Manufactures are required to ship a MSDS/SDS with products. MSDS/SDS may also be obtained through a manufacturer's website or through correspondence with the manufacturer or distributor via email or telephone.

Additionally, provides a free database of common MSDS/SDS files.

How often does an MSDS need to be updated?

How often an MSDS must be updated largely depends on country specific regulations. In Canada, users of regulated chemicals must update their MSDS every 3 years. In Australia, manufacturers of regulated chemicals must update an MSDS/SDS every 5 years.

In the USA, the focus is on the manufacturers. They must update their MSDS if the product has changed or the regulations have changed. Manufacturers must update an MSDS/SDS within 90 days if new information is made available. Additionally with the new GHS they must switch from MSDS to SDS by June 15, 2015.

When must a MSDS be provided?

An MSDS must be provided with or prior to the receipt of the first shipment of a chemical from a supplier.

How long do you have to keep MSDS on file?

OSHA requires 30 year record retention of MSDS/SDS files. However, MSHA requires 1 year record retention. If your industry is not regulated under the MSHA mining regulations 30 year record retention is the law.

What is Right to Know Law?

Right to Know Law refers to employees' right to know what chemicals they exposed to in the work place. HazCom regulates how employees must be able to access this information. For more information and resources on the Right to Know Law visit:

Who regulates MSDS sheets?

OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard is responsible for regulating MSDS/SDS sheets in the USA. Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHIMS) is responsible for regulating MSDS/SDS files in Canada. For more information on HazCom visit:

What is a hazard communication? / What is OSHA Hazard Communication Standard?

HazCom gives employees the right to know what hazards or chemicals they are exposed to in the work place. For more information and resources on HazCom visit:

Who is covered by the Hazard Communication Standard?

Originally the Hazard Communication Standard was created to regulate chemicals in the manufacturing industry. However in the late 80's HazCom was expanded to include all industries where employees may be exposed to hazardous chemicals.

When was the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard established?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began requiring MSDS's for hazardous materials effective May 26, 1986 under 29 CFR 1910.1200. However, the HCS was first issued in 1983.

Which SDS section is not enforced by OSHA?

According to OSHA:

"The SDS must also contain Sections 12 through 15, to be consistent with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), but OSHA will not enforce the content of these sections because they concern matters handled by other agencies."

If we have missed questions other EHS professionals (or novices) could value, please:  info@comply1.com


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