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Administration: Office of Environmental Health & Safety

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Hazardous materials are undeniably useful, whether used in pure form or as ingredients in manufactured products. Such materials are encountered in many areas of everyday life, including the workplace. It is estimated there are over 650,000 chemicals in 3.5 million workplaces, with the potential to affect 32 million workers in the United States. Hazardous substances can enter the body through inhalation, eye contact, skin absorption and ingestion.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the United States Department of Labor (DOL) states that all employees have the right to know the properties and potential hazards of materials to which they may be exposed during the course of their work. Such knowledge is essential to reducing the risk of occupational illness and injury.

Chemical labels and product labels give quick overviews of hazard information. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), written by the chemical manufacturer or importer and accompanying every chemical shipment, give detailed hazard information (physical and chemical properties, exposure limits, routes of entry, health effects of overexposure, personal protective equipment, etc.).

There are several ways in which MSDSs can be accessed. Departments should have copies of MSDSs for pure chemicals and manufactured products they use. However, long ago it became apparent this would result large volumes of paper being stored. MSDSs are accessed primarily online using MSDS Online at Lehman College. You can also obtain copies of MSDSs from Shaldon Watson, Chemical Hygiene Officer (Music Bldg B37A, x8978).