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Understanding MSDS

How to read and use Material Safety Data Sheets

What is a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)?

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. The MSDS contains much more information about the material than the label. 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.

When would I use an MSDS?

Always be familiar with the hazards of a product BEFORE you start using it. You should look at a MSDS, match the name of the chemical on your container to the one on the MSDS, know the hazards, understand safe handling and storage instructions, as well as understand what to do in an emergency.

What information is on the MSDS?

There are nine (9) categories of information that must be present on an MSDS in Canada. These categories are specified in the Controlled Products Regulations and include: 1. Product Information: product identifier (name), manufacturer and suppliers names, addresses, and emergency phone numbers 2. Hazardous Ingredients 3. Physical Data 4. Fire or Explosion Hazard Data 5. Reactivity Data: information on the chemical instability of a product and the substances it may react with 6. Toxicological Properties: health effects 7. Preventive Measures 8. First Aid Measures 9. Preparation Information: who is responsible for preparation and date of preparation of MSDS

As an employer, do I have responsibilities for MSDSs?

Yes. Employers must make sure that all controlled products have an up-to-date (less than three years old) MSDS when it enters the workplace. The MSDSs must be readily available to the workers who are exposed to the controlled product and to the health and safety committee or representative. If a controlled product is made in the workplace, the employer has a duty to prepare an MSDS for any of these products. Employers may computerize the MSDS information as long as all employees have access to and are trained on how to use the computer, the computers are kept in working order, and that the employer makes a hard copy of the MSDS available to the employee or safety and health committee/representative upon request.

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