Introduction to Material Safety Data Sheets

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is an information guideline for hazardous materials available in workplaces in Canada. Basically, the entire information system is composed of three components: Identification of hazards and classifications, labels of controlled products containers, MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets, and education and training of employees. Take a deeper understanding to one of these components—MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets.

Generally, MSDS is a document (printed or written) which contain technical, inclusive, and detailed information about controlled products in connection with their health effects, hazard assessment when it comes to storage and use of the product, health-risk in exposure of the employees, and its possible precautionary measures. Obviously, this is provided by the manufacturers or suppliers of chemical materials.

MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets should comply with the set standard content of WHIMS legislation. Specifically, MSDS should have complete categories and information on hazardous ingredients that are included in HMIRA. Nevertheless, there is no restriction when it comes to its format, design and wordings.

MSDS is important because it provides hazards awareness through information indicated on the labels. The information delivery system of WHMIS is not complete without this second element. Canada strictly implements that products under WHIMS are required to have a detailed MSDS for each product—products’ name, label and supplier must be harmonized.

MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets is composed of many essential elements such as: product basic information (name, manufacturer, supplier, contact information, etc.), hazardous contents and data (fire or explosion hazards), reactivity and chemical information, Health-risks, preventive and first-aid measures, and data on preparation information of MSDS.

Do not be surprised if you find many formats or additional information in MSDS because only certain information is required by the law. In Canada, The abovementioned information are the ones that are indispensable and cannot be altered, it depends upon the manufacturer to add information.

Canada requires MSDS to follow the 16- heading format. There are two qualifications.
First, MSDS must have complete information on the Controlled Products Regulations and all headings and subheadings must contain appropriate information, and the unavailability or inapplicability of the information must be indicated.

Second, there should be a phrase ‘This product has been classified in accordance with the hazard criteria of the CPR and the MSDS contains all of the information required by the CPR’ under the Regulatory Information section.

You should observe the three year limitation of MSDS. As you can see, it is not static and its content typically changes every three years. In case you are using chemical products bought three years ago, contact the manufacturer immediately. It is a responsibility of manufacturers to ensure that all controlled products have the latest MSDS information before entering into the workplace. MSDS have to be accessible to the employees and workers exposed to the product for health and safety purposes.

Despite its global implementation, others may find it difficult to understand some information in MSDS. This is because it was originally intended for only a few people exposed to the controlled product. But as time passed, MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets becomes written in a clear, concise, and easy-to-understand format.