Msds

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are used everywhere by handlers of chemicals and toxic materials. They describe in detail all the critical information about about a given substance, including its chemical name, hazardous ingredients, reactivity information, and safe-handling instructions. If you work in a lab, manufacturing plant, or any place that exposes you to potentially dangerous chemicals, chances are you already have MSDS on hand.

MSDS are important for employees because they describe exactly how a material should be stored, handled, and disposed of. If there's an accident at a work site, it's critical that that information be readily available so that medical responders or fellow employees can treat exposure or poisoning. Even if there's been no contamination, workers simply must know how to handle these materials in their day-to-day use.

Who Uses MSDS?

While workers must have MSDS available at all times, so must employers. The sheets are not provided simply as a courtesy by the materials' manufacturers. They are required by governmental agencies, including the Occupational Health & Safety Organization (OSHA), whose job it is to prevent workplace injuries and deaths.

Since 1970, when the agency was created under the Nixon administration, OSHA has reduced occupational deaths by 62% and injuries by 42%. Today, regulations are more stringent than ever, but there is still work to be done. In 2001 alone, there were some 5.2 million occupational injuries or illnesses among U.S. workers. And those only account for the ones that were reported.

Employers and MSDS

As stated above, employers depend on MSDS as much as their workers do. It is the responsibility of the business owner or on-site manager to make sure workers are trained in the everyday use of manufacturing materials and other chemicals. If an accident does occur, it is the management that incurs the liability (though in some cases the material's manufacturer can be responsible).

It is therefore imperative that every business that uses such materials have MSDS on file, not just for safe handling instructions and training purposes, but under penalty of law. But managing an MSDS database can be tricky; a material's specifications may routinely change or be updated, and sometimes new chemicals are created altogether. If two existing materials are combined into one, it may not be a matter of simply combining the handling procedures for the individual products. So what are employers to do?

The MSDS Solution

The easiest way to remain in compliance is to find an effective way to manage your MSDS database. In the old days, this meant sifting through reams and reams of old MSDS to find outdated material that needed to be updated. But thanks to the Internet age, it's easier than ever to keep information up to date by using an online database. There are even companies whose sole job it is to manage your data for you.

Outsourcing your MSDS management can be an invaluable move. By hiring someone else to do the work, you free up your own personnel to do the tasks you need, not clerical minutiae that can be handled by a third party.


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