Who Needs a Material Safety Data Sheet?

According to the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every workplace that uses, stores or handles hazardous materials, needs to provide information about these hazards to their employees. OSHA directs this to be acccomplished by the document known as a Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS.

All employees, according to OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard, who might handle, work with or be exposed to hazardous materials, as defined by OSHA, must have access to the MSDSs for all the hazardous materials for that site. Employers must therefore maintain a collection of the MSDSs of all the hazardous materials used on their premises, whether they were purchased from another source or produced in-house.

Because of this, some customers and potential customers will also want MSDSs to accompany or even precede your products onto their premises. Some companies, following their own safety programs, go beyond the Federal requirements and might demand an MSDS, even if your product is not hazardous. They have decided, for good or ill, that every material or product they bring onto their worksite will have its properties and hazards disclosed.

It doesn't seem fair, but practical and commercial situations have developed to the point where they now dictate uses and requirements for MSDSs that go beyond what OSHA originally mandated. You can fully comply with the law but not meet your customers's requirements.

There is no legal requirement for an MSDS for a consumer situation, since OSHA is charged with protecting workplace safety and health. Many consumer products, however, wind up in the workplace and will need an MSDS, or some companies won't permit the products on their site.

While OSHA explicitly exempts "articles" from the MSDS requirement, many companies will want information on substances used in equipment, machinery, etc. Many products such as markers, batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs are articles by the OSHA definition, but clearly have a chemical component that makes them a candidate for an MSDS in the current business and litigation climate. Sometimes there are chemical goods such as lubricants or coolants that are present in sufficient quantities to need an MSDS. A lubricant film on equipment is of little concern, but a sump with 3 liters of lubricant which is circulated through the equipment, should have an MSDS in today's economy. You will certainly need one for the refill container of lubricant.

It is sometimes difficult to tell what products are hazardous and whether you will need an MSDS or not. If you have questions and need some answers, give us a call or email. We will be glad to discuss your situation and let you know what you need.