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Breaking the Code – MSDS

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are documents which include information on the products you use in your workplace and/or at home. MSD sheets involve products we inhale or come in contact with that pose potential health concerns, such as: paints, glues, chemicals, solvents, and air borne dust resulting from sanding surfaces and working with polishing compounds.


There are a minimum of nine sections within the MSD sheets. Section 1 provides the products’: name, product identification, manufacturer’s information, and emergency phone number. A duplication of the products Hazard Material Identification Systems (HMIS) appears in Section 1, which is also present on the commercial product label for quick product hazard assessment. We seldom see this HMIS quick-reference identification on consumer products and we do not understand why.


The HMIS labeling is color coded with numerical ratings for: health (blue), flammability (red), and reactivity (yellow) hazards.


            “0” Minimal Hazard

            “1” Slight Hazard

            “2” Moderate Hazard

            “3” Serious Hazard

            “4” Severe Hazard


HMIS labels used within a facility will also include a code letter which identifies appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The user should also be aware of the fact that the type of personal protective equipment required will vary with conditions of use. Therefore, since the manufacturer cannot anticipate all conditions of use, it is typically up to the user to determine the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This is why PPE ratings are not always included on HMIS labels. In future newsletters we will discuss other sections of the MSD sheets.

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