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 http://www.ilpi.com/msds/faq/parta.html#whatis)
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 Data is continually being produced on effects of particular substances and some collections contain outdated material or are revised less often and some MSDS are more complete than others.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.),
Van Camp, Ann J. “Material Safety Data Sheets: Online and CD-ROM Sources.” Online, v. 14, no. 2 (March 1990): pp. 97-99.