All businesses that handle chemicals, even those not normally considered dangerous, such as household window cleaner, must keep material safety data sheets for each substance. An MSDS lists information on the chemical's reactivity with other compounds, its flammability rating, safe exposure levels and possible health hazards that could result from exposure. The sheets must be printed in English, but the company may choose to provide translations in other languages if a significant portion of its workforce is bilingual.


All employees must have unrestricted access to the company's MSDS files. These may be compiled in a binder or posted on the wall, but they must be kept near the area where employees use, store or transport chemicals. The company must also allow customers and guests to examine a particular MSDS upon request, but it is not required to provide a copy for someone to take home. Employees must be trained on the location of the MSDS and understand the relevant information from the sheets.

Basic Information

The first section of the MSDS lists basic information related to the compound, including its common name and chemical formula. It also includes the name, physical location and contact information for all suppliers and manufacturers involved in producing the chemical. Each vendor must provide an emergency phone number that is available 24 hours a day. The American Chemical Society maintains the Chemical Abstracts Service registry to track all chemical compounds. The CAS number for the compound should be listed on its MSDS.

Safety Information

The MSDS must describe the appropriate safe handling and transportation procedures for the compound, along with the proper way to contain and clean up spills. Recommended firefighting methods and first aid procedures for people who are exposed to the compound should also be included. If any protective gear is necessary to safely handle the substance, this must be noted on the MSDS.


The company should appoint one employee to maintain its MSDS files. This person must check incoming shipments of chemicals to make sure they include the necessary documentation. Chemical suppliers and manufacturers are required by law to provide an MSDS for each product they sell. If these sheets are not included, the designated employee must request the missing sheets from the vendor and keep a record of the request date and any subsequent communication. When a substance is no longer in use or its MSDS is updated, the old MSDS should be moved to the archives and replaced with the current information.