Sources of Information: The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

MSDSs and labels

To prevent accidents and illnesses at work, you should learn about the hazards and proper handling of the materials you use. The labels on autobody supplies contain some information but you can learn much more from the manufacturer’s material safety data sheet, sometimes called a MSDS. You should carefully review the MSDS for each of the materials you handle and follow the precautions found within them.

When you work with a chemical, read the MSDS!

Sample MSDS

Protect yourself by understanding the chemicals you work with!

The MSDS will give you this information:

Product Identification

The name of the substance and product number, the name and address of the manufacturer, and usually a phone number for emergencies and more information.


Hazardous Ingredients

Ingredients that might be dangerous, and safe exposure limits such as Permissible Exposure Limit or PEL (set by OSHA) or the Threshold Limit Value or TLV. It also lists common names for the chemical.

Physical Characteristics

Many physical qualities of the chemical, for example, how the chemical looks and smells; boiling and melting temperatures (important in case a chemical might become a gas you might breathe); evaporation rate (known as percent volatile); how easily the chemical dissolves; and how heavy it is (this tells you if it will sink, float or dissolve in water).

Fire and Explosion Data

The lowest temperature when the chemical could ignite by a spark (flash point); if it’s flammable (catches fire below 100 degrees F) or combustible (catches fire above 100 degrees F); and the best way to put out a fire involving this chemical. Note: if the flash point is close to the working temperature, it is very, very dangerous!


What happens if this chemical comes in contact with air, water or other chemicals; which conditions (like heat or sunlight) or materials (like water or acid) can cause the chemical to react by burning, exploding or releasing dangerous vapors. In that case, the chemical is called “incompatible” or “unstable” with these conditions or substances.

Health Hazards

Ways the chemical might enter your body, like splashing on your skin or being breathed in as vapor, as well as possible symptoms of over-exposure. The MSDS lets you know if over-exposure might make existing medical conditions worse, and describes emergency first aid procedures.

Usage, Handling, And Storage

How to clean up an accident, spill, leak or release, including special procedures; how to handle, store and dispose of chemicals safely. Remember, if there is a spill, don’t handle it yourself if you don’t know the correct procedure, including what protective equipment to wear. Check with your supervisor.

Special Protection and Precautions

What Personal Protective Equipment to use when working with the chemical, special procedures, extra health and safety information, signs that should be posted and other information.