Anatomy of a MSDS: Sections I-IV

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To be Hazmat or not to be Hazmat? That is the question a MSDS will answer. (Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

If you’ve ever perused our site chances are you have come across a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). On most of our product pages that require this document you will often find it below the price and above the “Add to Cart” button.

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Known internationally as a safety data sheet (SDS), a MSDS is a document that basically tells you how to, well, safely use the product and how it may or may not harm you under certain conditions. I’ve decided to break down one of our top sellers– Dow Corning’s DC4 Electrical Insulating Compound— so you can see the anatomy or general structure of one.

Most MSDS are divided into sections so let’s explore briefly the first four. Other sections will be discussed in later posts. It’s important to note that not all MSDS contain every section but this will give you an idea of what usually is included.

The DC4 utilizes the European Union’s SDS format.

Section I – Identification of Product and Company

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If something goes wrong, the first thing you want to do is be able to identify the product to the company’s emergency telephone number service operator. All of this information is included in the first section for this particular reason. Issues relating to the product can be addressed if the representatives on the other line know what you are referring to.

Also worth mentioning is the NFPA Profile, which is a rating system that indicates a product’s level of hazards as it relates to such areas as health, flammability, and reactivity. For an excellent breakdown of the rating system check out Northeastern University’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety page. For more information, also check out the National Fire Protection Association website.

Section II – Hazards Identification

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This section refers to the health risks associated with exposure to the product in question. This means if you accidentally get it in your eyes or on your skin or ingest it, what side effects you can expect. DC4 compound is a mild irritant and offers no short-term harm. As you can see there are sub-sections pertaining to long-term exposure, signs and symptoms to look out for, and pre-existing medical conditions that the product may intensify. Fortunately, DC4 does not seem to have any as presently recorded.

(If you click on the picture to the right, you may not notice a portion of Section II as it has been cut off. Due to the PDF pagination I was unable to capture it in an image. Underneath the part “Medical Conditions Aggravated by Exposure,” there is a brief statement that reads: “The above listed effects of overexposure are based on actual data, results of studies performed upon similar compositions, component data and/or expert review of the product. Please refer to Section 11 for the detailed toxicology information.” This statement basically indicates that the product has been tested and the data has been verified by authorities in the appropriate field. Thus, the information can be trusted by readers.)

Section III – Composition/Information on Ingredients

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For this item, this section is empty. DC4 does not contain any materials considered hazardous (Hazmat). Notice that this determination was made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency assigned to dealing with MSDS. This section usually includes the name of a hazardous material(s), the percentage of material the product contains, and a CASRN. The CASRN stands for Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) Registry Number, which is a unique identification number established by the CAS; information pertaining to over 71 million organic and inorganic substances can be found using this system. For an example of a filled in Section III, check out the MSDS on another product we offer, the LPS Labs 01916 LST Penetrant.

Section IV – First Aid Measures

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Should you inadvertently expose yourself to the harmful ingredients contained within a product, this section offers a quick set of instructions on how to alleviate the pain or discomfort. As hinted in Section II, Dow Corning DC4 does not pose any serious hazards to your health. Mild irritation may occur. But should exposure to it lead to an escalation of symptoms, this section recommends seeking medical help, either from a doctor or nurse or someone you trust. This particular MSDS even has a “Notes to Physician” sub-section in case you need to bring it to the hospital.

So there you have it: The first four sections of an MSDS. Be sure to check in soon for the second part in the “Anatomy of a MSDS” blog post series. As always, be safe out there…

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***UPDATE*** Read other parts in the “ANATOMY OF A MSDS” blog post series

Part Two – Sections V-VIII
Part Three – Sections IX-XII
Part Four – Sections XIII-XVI

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Otto the Owner

About Otto the Owner
Otto the Owner

I'm Otto. Friends call me Otto. As an avid owner of aircraft I know the costs and benefits of flying. I've had enough experience with planes to grow rust on my mustache. While I'm not the best at words, my buddy Skylar helps me write these posts so I can transfer any knowledge onto other aviators out there.