A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document that contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and how to work safely with the chemical product. It is an essential starting point for the development of a complete health and safety program. It also contains information on the use, storage, handling and emergency procedures all related to the hazards of the material. The MSDS contains much more information about the material than the label. MSDSs are prepared by the supplier or manufacturer of the material. It is intended to tell what the hazards of the product are, how to use the product safely, what to expect if the recommendations are not followed, what to do if accidents occur, how to recognize symptoms of overexposure, and what to do if such incidents occur.
It is usually provided by the exporter (via the manufacturer) along with a UN Number and only is only necessary when shipping hazardous goods.
An MSDS is used to determine additional shipping costs associated with sending hazardous materials. It is also used to ensure that proper safety measures are taken in the handling of the goods and that vessel safety limits are not breached.
Most freight forwarders require that the MSDS is provided with the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction.