An MSDS, or Material Safety Data Sheet, is a formal document that provides important health and safety information about any potentially hazardous product, typically a chemical compound used in a workplace. Recently renamed the Safety Data Sheet, or SDS, it's provided to end users by the product’s manufacturer or distributor.
Similar to a user’s manual for chemicals and other such substances, SDSs have been made by manufacturers for millennia, according to a researcher who found instructions for using some chemicals in an Egyptian pyramid’s hieroglyphics. More recently, specific and generic chemical safety sheets were provided by many chemical manufacturers and their manufacturers’ associations.
The first government regulations requiring MSDSs were effected in the maritime industry in the late 1960s. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enacted a regulation in 1983 that required manufacturers to maintain MSDSs for the potentially hazardous substances used in their facilities. The regulation was expanded in 1987 to include all employers.
Since the implementation of the first MSDS requirement in 1983, OSHA and related agencies in the U.S., and their counterparts in other countries, have worked to develop uniform standards for the entire area of hazard communication. This has resulted in a new Hazard Communication Standard, which was introduced in 2013 and became effective on June 1, 2015. Under the new standard, the MSDS was renamed the Safety Data Sheet, or SDS.
In practice, every potentially hazardous product delivered to a workplace must be accompanied by an SDS that conforms to the new standard, which itself is aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, or GHS. The manufacturer is responsible for preparing the SDS in the language of the country where the customer is located
An exemption exists for nonhazardous chemicals and consumer products like correction fluid and window cleaner that are used in the workplace the same way and with the same frequency they’d be used by the average consumer. If used the same way but with greater duration or exposure, though, an SDS must be provided. In addition, office workplaces where workers rarely, if ever, encounter hazardous substances are also exempt from the SDS requirement.