What is a MSDS Sheet?

The answer to this question is very easy. MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet. It is a document that contains all information that is important about a chemical. Information that is included is classification, proper handling, proper protective equipment to be worn, how to store and much more. On this page we will go over each section of the MSDS and what they mean as well as the different symbols that are key to understanding the proper use of the chemical.


So the MSDS also known as SDS (Safety Data Sheet) contains 16 different sections of information. They are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If your workplace uses any chemicals or stores any chemicals in an area you have access to they are required, by OSHA, to have a MSDS for every chemical. They are also required to show you where the MSDS is located in the event that you may need the information it contains.

Here we will go over exactly what that is:

Section 1: Identification

  • Product identifier: This can be, but is not limited to, the chemical name, code number or batch number. IMPORTANT: product identifier must be the same on the label as in section 1
  • Manufacturer or distributor name, address and phone number
  • Emergency phone number
  • Recommended use and restrictions on use

Section 2: Hazard(s) Identification

  • All hazards regarding the chemical
  • Required label elements

Section 3: Composition/ Information on Ingredients

  • Information on chemical ingredients
  • Trade secret claims

Section 4: First-Aid Measures

  • Important symptoms/effects
    • Acute
    • Delayed
  • Required treatment

Section 5: Fire-fighting Measures

  • Suitable extinguishing techniques
  • Equipment
  • Chemical hazards from fire

Section 6: Accidental Release Measures

  • Emergency procedures
  • Protective equipment
  • Proper methods of containment and cleanup

Section 7:Handling and Storage

  • Precautions for safe handling and storage
  • Includes incompatibilities – other chemicals it is reactive with

Section 8:Exposure Controls/Personal Protection

  • OSHA’S Permissible Exposure Limits
  • Threshold Limit Values
  • Other exposure limit used or recommended by the chemical manufacturer
  • Appropriate engineering controls
  • Personal Protective Equipment(PPE)

Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Lists chemical’s characteristics

Section 10: Stability and Reactivity

  • Lists chemical stability
  • Possibility of hazardous reactions

Section 11: Toxicological Information

  • Includes routes of exposure
  • Related symptoms
    • Acute
    • Chronic
  • Numerical measures of toxicity

Sections 12-15: Combined Sections

  • Ecological Information
  • Disposal Considerations
  • Transport Information
  • Regulatory Information

Section 16: Other information

  • The date of preparation or last revision


Now that you know what each section contains what are common symbols seen in a MSDS or SDS?

Pictograms and Hazards

pictogram_names-8Health Hazard: 

Carcinogen, Mutagenicity, Reproductive Toxicity, Respiratory Sensitizer, Target Organ Toxicity, Aspiration Toxicity


Flammables, Pyrophorics, Self-Heating, Emits Flammable Gas, Self-Reactives, Organic Peroxides

pictogram_names-9Exclamation Mark:

Irritant, Skin Sensitizer, Acute Toxicity, Narcotic Effects, Respiratory Tract Irritant, Hazardous to Ozone Layer

pictogram_names-5Gas Cylinder:

Gas under pressure


Skin Corrosion/burns, Eye Damage, Corrosive to Metals

pictogram_names-2Exploding Bomb:

Explosives, Self-Reactives, Organic Peroxides

pictogram_names-4Flame Over Circle:



Aquatic Toxicity

pictogram_names-7Skull and Crossbones:

Acute Toxicity (Fetal)


preparation-of-a-msds-3-638It is also important to recognize the color of some of the pictograms. Everything on a MSDS has some meaning, so if you see something Red, that indicates Flammability; Yellow indicates Reactivity; Blue indicates it is some sort of Health hazard; if it is White it is a special classification.


Now that you have learned the basics of the MSDS the next important move is to be aware of where your MSDS is located. If you cannot find it, inform a superior or manager so that they can show it to you. Your safety while at work is no joke, and neither are chemicals. Always ensure to stay knowledgeable whether you’re working with household bleach all the way to industrial chemicals, it does not matter when your safety is involved.