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Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS): Home

Information about what MSDS are, how to use them, and how to find them.

Sample MSDS

MSDS vary widely in how they appear - but the content remains the same - regardless.  Below are sample MSDS.

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What are MSDS?

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are basically brief informative fact sheets on specific hazardous substances. 

They are a "component of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard.  This regulation, announced in August 1987, requires employers to provide information to employees about hazardous chemicals used in the workplace through MSDS, proper labels, and training programs” (Van Camp, p. 97).  The regulation covers private, public, industry, and non-industry uses by any employee of any chemical that may have potentially harmful effects. 

Every purchase of a potentially harmful chemical is required to be accompanied by an MSDS for that chemical.  Purchasers are required to keep copies of the MSDS on hand for their employees to consult.  “It must be located close to workers, and readily available to them during each workshift” (Marsick, p. 280).

"MSDS's include information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill/leak procedures. MSDS's vary in length depending on their format, content, and font size. We have seen them from 1 to 10 pages, with most being 2 to 4 pages." (taken from

No single MSDS collection can be considered to be comprehensive and each covers a varying number of substances. Many of the less common substances may not be found in smaller MSDS collections. Data is continually being produced on effects of particular substances and some collections contain outdated material or are revised less often and some MSDS are more complete than others.

Further Reading on MSDS

Marsick, Daniel J.  “Resources for Hazard Communication Compliance.”  IN Information Resources in Toxicology, 2nd edition, Philip Wexler (ed.), New York: Elsevier, 1988, pp. 261-273.  [Note: similar, and more up-to-date, information is provided in the 3rd edition, on pages 433-437, but the 2nd edition has a nice comparison chart of how many MSDS are covered by each  major collection.]

Van Camp, Ann J.  “Material Safety Data Sheets:  Online and CD-ROM Sources.”  Online, v. 14, no. 2 (March 1990): pp. 97-99.

Subject Guide

Gail Stucky's picture
Gail Stucky
Co-Director and Public Services Librarian
Bethel College Library


Thanks to Lorrie Pellack of Iowa State University for the use of her guide on MSDS.