Material Safety Data Sheets

Material Safety Data Sheets in the United States

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) in Environmental Law

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Hazard Communication Standard, these data sheets are required to contain information that must accompany hazardous chemicals to the workplace. The sheets do not have to be in a particular form, although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed some guidelines. They must, however, contain specific information.

The law holds the importer or manufacturer responsible for preparing the material safety data sheets and supplying them to purchasers either before or concurrent with the first shipment of the hazardous chemical. Thereafter, they need not be supplied unless they are requested or have been changed or updated.

Employers are required to obtain material safety data sheets for any hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Some exceptions exist, though, primarily because the law excludes specific items from the category of hazardous chemicals that would otherwise fall under the definition. No material safety data sheet is required, for example, for a product that can be purchased for household use and is used in the workplace in a similar manner and in similar quantities. A bottle of acetone might fall in this exception. Personal drugs and tobacco are also excluded from the law’s coverage. Other items are not considered hazardous chemicals because of their construction; these are called articles. A battery is a good example of the article exemption: it works because of the way it is made, and it does not release the electrolyte under normal use and operating conditions.

When material safety data sheets are required, the manufacturer or importer must identify the hazardous chemical by both its common and chemical names. The sheet must state the substance’s physical and chemical characteristics, outline the physical and health hazards associated with it, whether it is a carcinogen, the permissible exposure limits, and detail the primary routes of entry (like skin, mouth, or inhalation). Further, it must include precautions for safe use and handling, control measures necessary (such as use of masks, gloves, or ventilation), and describe emergency and first aid measures to be used if a problem occurs. The manufacturer or importer must also date the sheet and include the name, address, and telephone number of someone who can provide more information. The manufacturer or importer must also keep a copy on file.

Employers are required to obtain the sheets if they were not provided. They must train employees how to read them and keep a copy of the sheets in a central location so they are available to workers during normal working hours.
Based on “Environment and the Law. A Dictionary”.

Material Safety Data Sheets: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Material Safety Data Sheets. This part provides references, in relation to Material Safety Data Sheets, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Material Safety Data Sheets by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Material Safety Data Sheets and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Material Safety Data Sheets or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Material Safety Data Sheets and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Material Safety Data Sheets. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Material Safety Data Sheets should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Material Safety Data Sheets when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

Leave a Comment