When workers or emergency personal need to come in contact with chemicals or other substances that are potentially harmful, having an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on hand can guide workers and other personal to the proper care and handling of those substances. The MSDS supplies information about the chemical’s physical data, such as its melting point, boiling point, flash point; its toxicity, the health effects it can have if handling incorrectly, first aid, reactivity, proper storage, disposal, protective equipment and correct procedures for leaks or spills. Depending on the format used for the MSDS, the sheet can be anywhere from one to ten pages in length. The average length however is closer to 2-4 pages long.
There are three basic classes of people who MSDS forms are meant for. These include employees who might be exposed to a hazard at work; employers who must know the proper methods of storage and handling of hazardous substances; and emergency personnel who are called in such as firefighters, hazardous materials crews, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and emergency room personnel.
It is important to note here that MSDS forms are not meant for consumers. MSDSs are for people who are occupationally exposed to substances with the potential to be harmful, not for people who only on occasion or rarely come in contact with the substance. For example, someone who uses one or two cans of paint in a year does not need an MSDS, whereas someone who uses that same paint in a confined space 40 hours every working week would certainly find an MSDS useful.