Material Safety Data Sheet

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

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The MSDS in Australia

The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is the subject of Volume 1 of this series of Guide to Chemicals in Australia. Volume 1 helps how to prepare and interpret the MSDS as defined by the National Commission.
The MSDS is required for imports of hazardous substances to Australia and any intoductions to the workplace.

MSDS checklist

Glossary of terms

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The MSDS is a structured document which provides information about a specific substance including the identity, health hazards, precautions for use, safe handling, storage and disposal information.

The MSDS may be regarded as bridging the gap between the extensive data resources of data banks or other specialised information sources, and the immediate needs of the workplace. It is a key component of workplace information (ranging from extensive literature through to the workplace label and warning signs). horizontal rule


The MSDS is a document by which the manufacturer or importer provides information about a specific substance for general use.

The information includes the identity, health hazards, precautions for use, safe handling, storage and disposal.

Although aimed at providing a basis for safer application of the substance at work, it is a general application document which is not necessarily prepared to specifically describe the actual situation in which the substance is used. Therefore, professional advice is often required before applying the MSDS in the particular workplace.

An MSDS is required to be available for all hazardous substances that may be used (ie. handled, stored or transported) in the workplace. It could also be available where hazardous substances that are produced and substances which are only hazardous if used incorrectly or in abnormal applications.

The Material Safety Data Sheet

bulletMust be available for each hazardous substance in the workplace (at or before introduction); and bulletMust be current and valid (less than 5 years, accurate, unaltered, Australian contact details etc.). Note: The MSDS should also be available for products that produce (or could produce) hazardous substances.

An industrial hygienist or other skilled person may be helpful to assess accuracy and relevance to the workplace.

a. Validity

The MSDS has to comply with the National Code of Practice for the Preparation of Material Safety Data Sheets [NOHSC:2011(1994)].

A format is provided by the Commission but it allows formats defined by the European Community and the International Labour Office. Any overseas MSDS for products supplied in Australia should include the Australian manufacturer or importer contact details.

i. Reissue requirement

The National Model Regulations require the MSDS to be reviewed and re-issued at intervals not exceeding 5 years, or when there are changes including to the;
bulletProduct name;
bulletComposition (formulation), particularly if it changes the;
bullethazardous properties, bulletappearance, or bulletphysical properties. bullet Mode of anticipated application; bullet Regulations and codes; or, bullet Relevant health and safety information or regulations. b. Availability

The National Model Regulations requires the MSDS to be; bulletAvailable for all hazardous substances (Appendix 4) for use in the workplace (see Scope 12.2). (This includes substances which could produce hazardous substances). Manufacturers and importers have the responsibility for identifying hazardous substances; bulletProvided by manufacturers or importers. If the employer manufactures a hazardous substance, an MSDS has to be provided if the substance is supplied outside the workplace. The National Code of Practice does not require an MSDS for hazardous substances produced and used within the workplace, or for by-products, wastes or fugitive emissions. bulletProvided before, or with the first supply of the substance. If the MSDS has been revised, the MSDS should be provided before or on the next delivery of the substance. bulletAvailable on request, without difficulty or delay, at the worksite or designated work area to purchasers, prospective purchasers and users including; bulletemployees who could be exposed, bulletmedical practitioners treating an employee, and bulletsupervisors of users (whether or not themselves with potential for exposure). bullet Available on printed sheets. The MSDS may also be accessible on computer database or microfiche (the most recent/current MSDS) providing that;
bulletthe equipment is readily accessible and in good working order; bulletusers are trained to use equipment; and bulleta paper copy can be obtained; bullet Unaltered

The MSDS should be provided in an original and not

altered other than by the manufacturer or the importer. Changes or additions, (eg. specific workplace information) may be incorporated by appending to the MSDS, and providing it is made clear that the section is an appendage and not part of the original issued MSDS. bullet Users encouraged to read the MSDS before using the substance; and bullet Copy of the most recent MSDS is supplied to the Australian National Material Safety Data Sheet Repository (to record the MSDS in Australia). i. Exemptions

Material Safety Data Sheets are not required to be provided for; bulletSubstances not intended for use in the workplace (eg. the home); bulletSuppliers to retailers and for retail warehouse operators, for substances in consumer packages which hold less that 30 kilograms or 30 litres and which are not intended to be opened; and bulletLaboratories, for preparations, samples or reaction intermediates.

The Material Safety Data Sheet

The MSDS need not be supplied for... bulletSubstances not for workplace (eg. home); bulletRetailers and retail warehouse operators for packages in consumer packages less than 30 kg/L and not opened; and bulletLaboratories for preparations, samples and intermediates (but required for reagents!) ii. Authority

As also previously indicated there must be one party who is clearly identified as taking full and legal responsibility for the accuracy and quality of the information. This is defined as the Australian manufacturer or importer.

a. Structure

In adopting the National Model Regulations, the format of the MSDS will be legislated to be that as recommended by the National Commission.

The term Worksafe format does not imply that the MSDS must provide information in the same sequence (structure or order) as indicated in the Worksafe National Code of Practice. The objective is to encourage the provision of complete and understandable information for the workplace. The structure of the MSDS is therefore not critical (although a similar or familiar format is helpful for ease of interpretation).

If the substance is imported, and the MSDS is not available in the Worksafe format (see note above), the National Model Regulations provides that it may reformatted.

The introductory section of the MSDS should indicate whether the substance is a hazardous substance.

The physical data should describe the product as supplied and not the ingredients.

Ingredients should be identified by chemical name, CAS No. and proportion.

There are in effect two principal parts to the MSDS in the Worksafe format - a Source part and the Application part. The Other part is also relevant. The format is summarised by the following table.

The Material Safety Data Sheet

Consists of Source data (descriptive and health and safety data) and Application (purpose, emergency and disposal) related information (based on the source data).

a. Ingredients

Each ingredient, including the impurities, should (subject to 12.6.1) be listed by its common chemical/technical names. The CAS number should be provided for each ingredient, whilst the common synonyms, including recognised abbreviations, may also be detailed.

Ingredients at concentrations below their respective concentration cut-off level or without exposure standards need only be identified (ie. as Type III substances by their generic name or even as Other ingredients determined not to be hazardous see 12.6.1).

If the exact amount of the ingredient(s) in the formulation cannot be specified the proportion of each ingredient should be indicated as a range (see Volume 1 of the Guide to Chemicals).

i. Commercially Confidential Information

The National Code of Practice for Completion of Material Safety Data Sheets provides guidelines for disclosure of the identity of the ingredients. It makes provision for the use of generic names or even total non-disclosure of the identity to provide for commercial confidentiality (ie. identifying the substance will place commercial interests at risk). (1) Qualifications to restricting ingredient information

Information on ingredients is fully detailed in volume 1 of Guide to Chemicals in Australia (the MSDS) with more explanation on page 49. It is subject to;

bulletWorksafe Australia to be notified by the manufacturer or importer on an approved form for the use of a generic name (guidance on use of generic names is provided). bulletThe chemical identities (and CAS numbers) for ingredient chemicals identified by generic name disclosed (by the manufacturer or importer) to specified parties on defined terms. Basically as outlined on page 49 of this Guide, Type I substances (hazardous substances except harmful substances) and SUSDP scheduled drugs and poisons, must be fully identified, type II may be identified by generic name (for which guidelines are provided). Ingredient Identification

MSDS disclosure requirements for ingredients

1. The Retail Sector

Employers, as retailers and retail warehouse operators that usehazardous substances, have the same responsibilities as others using hazardous substances. However establishments handling only consumer packages intended for retail sale, that are not opened on the premises and hold less than 30 kilograms or 30 litres require; bulletNo register and MSDS; and bulletInformation for training, and workplace assessment may be limited to that provided by the label or MSDS. Where hazardous substances are used for other activities, all the provisions of the National Model Regulations and the Code of Practice apply. Suppliers' to the retail sector have to ensure the substances are properly labelled and supply MSDS as per the Model Regulations.

Retailers can advise their customers that MSDS are available from the supplier as detailed on the label (of the hazardous substance).

Therefore as employers, retailers and retail warehouse operators have obligations, with the above qualifications/exemptions, that therefore require; bulletAll containers of hazardous substances to be properly labelled (3); bulletWorkplace assessments (and subsequent action including monitoring, instigating controls) (5); bulletInduction and training of staff (2); bulletMaintaining records (9); bulletMSDS for all hazardous substances used in work activities (ie. including opening of retail packages but excluding unopened packages as allowed for above); and bulletMaintaining a register where MSDS are required because hazardous substances are used in work activities (4). Other issues relate to storage as dangerous goods, including segregation, separation, placarding, ventilation (eg AS 1940), lighting (AS 1689, ie. to be adequate to clearly read labels) and emergency procedures in place with appropriate equipment.


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