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Msds: the legal requirements

Updated April 17, 2017

Material Safety Data Sheets are required by all businesses when potentially hazardous materials are used in the workplace or a public location. In the US, OSHA sets the standards under Hazard Communication Standard, found at 29 CFR 1910.1200. The EPA also is involved with MSDS enforcement under the Community Right to Know Law (SARA Title III).

Hazardous Materials

There are over 50,000,000 known hazardous materials. Each material has different effects and consequences when being handled. Some materials are so hazardous that they are regulated and require a license to handle. If you are unsure of what materials need to be tracked and how local legal constraints may impact you, contact your local OSHA and EPA compliance office.

Regulations require documentation and training

A business must supply OSHA with a list of all the potentially hazardous materials that it handles. This is called an MSDS list. A business must also include employee training procedures for labelling, handling, disposing, and maintaining inventory of potentially dangerous materials.

Business to Business Requirements

OSHA compliance is for business to business requirements. For example, a manufacturer of an engine may get components such as the starter or the valves from different suppliers. Each individual supplier has to provide the MSDS documentation to the manufacturer for their hazardous materials the first time that material ships.

If the engine manufacturer decides to then ship the completed engine assembly with all its components to another business for a service such as painting, that engine manufacturer would have to take all the MSDS information from all the suppliers, and send that documentation with the completed component to the painting business the first time it ships.

There is no requirement for businesses to provide MSDS sheets to consumers although many businesses will supply MSDS sheets upon request. Employees and former employees have the right under CFR 1910.1200 to see the MSDS sheets related to chemicals that they have handled. Employers must keep these records for a minimum of thirty years.

Information documented through MSDS

Companies can report to OSHA the types of hazardous material they are using by reporting their MSDS list of materials, but internally, they have to track a lot more on the data sheets. Information on an actual Material Data Safety Sheet includes the material name, its chemical composition, hazards, first aid measures, handling and storage, exposure controls, properties of the material-physical and chemical, reactivity and stability of material, accidental release records, toxicology, ecology, disposal process, and various other information. Local regulations may impose tighter terms than the federal regulations. The ANSI template is the current preferred document template and contains 16 elements. Consult your local OSHA or EPA compliance office for more details.

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About the Author

Kay Balbi began freelancing in 2009 and is now a business management consultant teaching Six Sigma/Lean. Her written work appears on various websites, focusing on business, health and family lifestyle concerns. Balbi has worked in the corporate world for over 30 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in marketing and a Master of Business Administration in global management from the University of Phoenix.