Posted on: April 12, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 4

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) should identify every hazardous substance, and the MSDS format should be standardised and accessible.

Here is an MSDS example for a non hazardous material that is useful to warehouse workers, handlers, transporters, users, emergency responders, first aiders, sheq managers, auditors, and waste handlers.

MSDSs for hazardous substances are required by legislation and in sheq management system standards like OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001, but not required for non haz substances.

Note that the MSDS format follows a standardised sequence and numbering, and is worded as concisely as possible. MSDSs should avoid using lines, boxes, tables, columns, capitalised wording, various type fonts, colours, typographical variation, writes editor, SHEQafrica.

Text should align to a left margin, not centered on the middle of the page. Most MSDS formats obscure their logic and accessibility by typographical features and redundant features. Some add a set of ratings for health impacts level, flammability level, hazard level, and PPE level on top.

Underlining or light colour lines could be used sparsely, to highlight only the substance identity, labelling, and major hazards, instead of using graphic features that may compete with wording. Emergency responders may not have time to study a file full of fancy confetti coloured sheets.

MSDSs could be displayed in transparent plastic envelopes or transparent file pockets clamped together, that could be sealed or heat sealed, to allow easy access and prevent degradation or soiling of the document, while allowing attachment to notice boards, wall cradles, clip boards, delivery notes, and on containers.

The MSDS example below offers a format sample of a degreaser, to demonstrate that even non hazardous MSDS data on non hazardous materials could be useful, could prevent minor incidents, and could assist emergency responders and firemen to distinguish between hazardous and non hazardous substances. Here is the format example;

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

Degreaser, Extra Heavy Duty, Super C

Revision date; 2009 February 10

1: Supplier

AC Environmental Products, 55 Main Road, Diep River, 7800
Cape Town, South Africa
Emergency Info call (21) 712 5440, (0)84 233 3300

2: Hazardous ingredients; None, blend of plant and vegetable extracts

3: Hazard identification
Emergency response data: Amber or yellow liquid
ERG number; not applicable

Potential health effects;
Inhalation: Not applicable
Skin: Not applicable
Eye: Not applicable
Ingestion: Non toxic

Potential environmental effects: None
Non toxic, biodegrades in 27 days

4: First aid measures

Inhalation: Not applicable
Skin contact; Not applicable
Eye contact; None, wash eye with water for 5 minutes
Ingestion: Not applicable, Non toxic

5: Fire and explosion hazard data

Flash point; None (method used; TOC)
Flammable limits: None
LEL: Not applicable
UEL: Not applicable
Extinguishing media: None required
Fire fighting procedures: Beware slippery when wet
Usual fire and explosion hazards: None

6: Accidental release measures

Steps to be taken after release or spill: Clean up or wash away
Cleaning method: Wet mop, or wash with water; beware slippery when wet
Waste disposal; Standard sewage treatment
Environmental precautions; None, 99% biodegrades in 7 days
Other precautions: Slippery when wet
Avoid freezing. If frozen, thaw and stir.

7: Handling and storage

Precautions; None
Care in handling is recommended

8: Control measures

Respiratory protection: None required
Ventilation: Not applicable
Local exhaust: None required
Mechanical, general; Acceptable
Special: None
Other: None
Protective Gloves; Not necessary
Eye protection: Not required, prudent handling recommended
Protective clothing or equipment: Slip resistant shoes
Work or hygienic practices: Normal

9: Physical data, chemical properties

Boiling Point: 95.2 C
Vapour pressure (mm Hg): 17.0
Vapour density (AIR=1): 0.62
Solubility in water and oil: Complete
Appearance: Liquid
Odour: Scent mild
Colour;  Amber or yellow
PH diluted: 8.5 to 9
Specific gravity (H O=1): 1.02
Melting point: not applicable
Flash point: not applicable
Evaporation rate if Butyl Acetate =1): 0.7

10: Stability and reactivity data

Stability: Stable
Conditions to avoid: None
Compatibility or materials to avoid: avoid strong acids
Hazardous polymerization; Could not occur

11: Toxicological and health hazard data

Health hazards acute or chronic: none, prudent handling
Ingestion: Non-Toxic
Inhalation: Not Applicable
Skin contact: Non-Irritant
Carcinogenicity; None
NTP: Not applicable
IARC monographs: Not Applicable
Legislated: No
Signs and symptoms of exposure: Not applicable
Medical condition aggravated by exposure: None
Emergency and first aid procedures: None

12: Ecological data

Biodegradability: 100% biodegradable in 27 days
Bioaccumulation: None
Ecotoxicitiy effects on fish: None
Ecotoxicity effects on aquatic organisms: None

13: Disposal

Waste disposal: Not applicable, safe in municipal sewer
Waste regulation: Not applicable

14; Transportation

DOT proper shipping name; None
Considered non-hazardous for transport
Air transport, IATA; considered non-hazardous for air transport

15: Regulation and legislation


16: Other information

Extra heavy duty degreaser, proprietary blend of plant and vegetable oils that individually are regarded food safe, or may be used as food additives the world over, and in Republic of South Africa.
Tested and passed by SABS to SANS 1828: 2005
Passed by USA National Food Safety (NSF)
Degreasers are regarded as safe for use in food and beverage industry

MSDS format; Compliant to OSHA Hazard Communication Standard

Disclaimer; This information is offered in good faith as accurate, but without guarantee in conditions of use and suitability, and particular uses, beyond manufacturer’s or supplier’s control. Users assume all risks of use of the product. Suppliers expressly disclaim warranties of every kind and nature, including warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose in respect to the use or suitability of the product.

Publisher’s disclaimer; reproduces this MSDS sample in good faith, with acknowledgement to AC Environmental Products, without endorsing the product or substances mentioned.


4 People reacted on this

  1. I am very glad that it is demonstrated in this article that MSDSs can be compiled for non hazardous substances as well. However, the first statement in this article creates confusion on whether it is a legal requirement to have MSDSs for all substances at work, regardless of their hazardous nature.

    Confusion relates mostly to demands that may come from customers to receive MSDSs for non hazardous substances, while it is only a legal requirement for hazardous substances.

    Kind regards, Elsie Snyman, Senior Manager SHE: Product Stewardship, Sasol Group Services

    Former editor replies; Thank you, I have changed ‘should’ to ‘could’ in the intro, and added a paragraph on legal and management systsems standards requirements being restricted to haz materials.

    The main benefit i see in non haz MSDSs is to emergency responders, but there may be reactivity issues.

    Detergents, for example, may be non haz, but detergents diluted and agitated in confined spaces like pressure equipment or pipe lines, may cause serious expansion and explosion, as well as contraction leading to fractures or rupture.

  2. Can anyone tell me if there is a legislative requirement in South Africa that MSDSs must be revised every certain number of years? For instance, in the USA, MSDSs must be revised every three years, according to law.

  3. I would also like to know about this… Can anyone tell me if there is a legislative requirement in South Africa that MSDSs must be revised every certain number of years?
    Keep in mind that the formulation or other info does not change.

  4. Colin Wagner asks; I want to import aerosol paint from Florida USA, to SA, and found a forwarding agent. For shipping of a hazardous substance, they want an MSDS for South Africa.

    In found much information on the Internet and on, but I still do not know whether I have to draft a material safety data sheet, or download one for hazardous substances?

    Former editor responds; Every substance and packaging is unique. Contact the manufacturer for the MSDS specific to the product, including active ingredients, solvents, propellants, properties, exposure routes, effects, emergency response, as well as handling, transport and shipping requirements. Some aerosols are not shipped by air, or exposed to low pressure environments.
    Also get the relevant international GHS signage from them, which is more generalised, indicating broad categories, such as flammable, corrosive, pressurised. This should already be displayed on the packaging. Most flammables and pressure vessels are prohibited in aviation.
    MSDSs should accompany documentation, and the load, and be accessible to handlers and the end user. Enjoy!

    Could an importer with experience in aerosols add more specific legal requirements?

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