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How to read an (M)SDS sheet

What is an (M)SDS?

(M)SDS stands for (Material) Safety Data Sheet. The “M” has been dropped from modern designations. An SDS describes all of the properties, hazards and safety precautions associated with a chemical.

How to search for an (M)SDS sheet

The first step is to locate the SDS you’re looking for.

You can use the full name (example: Sodium Hydroxide) or the chemical formula (example: NaOH).

What are the sections of an (M)SDS sheet?

The SDS sheet is broken up into multiple sections. Let’s look at each section in more detail. 

1.  Find out who makes it

The first section will tell you who makes the chemical you’re interested in. This is important to know if you have questions about the chemical later on. You will need to know who to contact for additional information.

2.  Figure out how to handle it safely

The second section tells you all about the hazards associated with this particular chemical, such as skin burns or eye damage.

3.  How strong is this thing?

The third section tells you how strong (or concentrated) this particular chemical is.

It’s important to note any additives or non-active ingredients, which have the potential to contaminate your process.

4.  Learn how to respond to a spill

The next few sections tell you more about the first aid, firefighting and accidental release measures. You need to know what to do in case of a release to protect yourself and those around you from burns or injury. Most times it’s best to let experts handle spills and clean up.

5.  Determine how to store it

Some chemicals need to be stored in a flammable cabinet. Certain chemicals should never be stored next to each other. Use the SDS to figure out the safest way to store your chemicals.

6.  PPE

Use the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that the manufacturer recommends.

Just. Use. It. Every. Time.

7.  The devil is in the details

There are additional sections with more details about the physical and chemical properties of the chemical. These are useful when generating process simulations.

8.  Save the fishies!

You can also understand the potential impact of the chemical on the environment from the SDS. That’s why it’s so important to learn about the hazards (#2) and store chemicals properly (#5).

As you can see, an (M)SDS is critical to properly store and handle chemicals at your facility. You should always refer to the (M)SDS before working with any new chemical at your facility.

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