What is MSDS in Shipping: Learning Glossary for Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances

What is MSDS in Shipping: Learning Glossary for Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances

Unveiling MSDS

When you’re involved in shipping, it’s essential to be familiar with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), also known as Safety Data Sheets (SDS) under the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

MSDS meaning in shipping is a document that provides comprehensive information about the substances being shipped, including the composition, potential hazards, handling instructions, and storage recommendations. Its primary purpose is to ensure the safety of all individuals handling the item, as well as to protect the environment from any potential harm.

Why is MSDS important in Shipping?

During shipping, numerous substances are transported worldwide, some of which could pose a considerable risk to people and the environment. MSDS serves as a valuable reference for everyone involved in the shipping process, helping to mitigate health and safety risks.

For instance, MSDS provides crucial details to package handlers, ensuring they take the necessary precautions when handling hazardous materials. Additionally, it assists transporters by informing them about proper storage and handling procedures, preventing accidents during transportation.

When is MSDS required?

If you’re shipping liquids, powders, or anything potentially hazardous, it’s often mandatory to include an MSDS or SDS with your shipment. This document helps to classify the materials, assess the potential hazard or risk to people and the environment, and provide vital handling and storage information.

In some cases, MSDS may also be needed when shipping non-hazardous goods. It serves as a supporting document, proving that the substances being transported do not fall under the dangerous goods category. By providing MSDS, you can ensure a smoother shipping process and prevent any unnecessary delays or issues.

Do I Need an MSDS?

In the shipping industry, an MSDS is a crucial document if you’re shipping items that may contain hazardous materials. This document provides detailed information on the contents of your shipment with a technical breakdown of the components or substances in your item. Its purpose is to prove that your shipment does not fall under the dangerous goods (DG) category.

However, it’s essential to note that an MSDS is a supporting document, not a complete shipping document. The primary purpose of an MSDS is to provide written emergency response information in case of fires, spills/leaks, first aid, etc.

When shipping liquids, powders, or anything hazardous, it’s often mandatory to provide an SDS or MSDS to identify and classify the potential hazard or risk to people or the environment.

How Can I Get an MSDS

1. Check with the manufacturer or supplier: The first step is to contact the product’s manufacturer or supplier and request an MSDS. Most companies should have the MSDS readily available for their products, as it is a legal requirement in many countries.

2. Online databases: If the manufacturer or supplier is unable to provide the MSDS, you can search for it in online databases. There are many websites dedicated to providing MSDS information for various products and chemicals. Some popular databases include MSDSonline and Chemwatch.

3. Government agencies: In some cases, you can obtain the MSDS from government agencies responsible for regulating hazardous substances. For example, in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a database of MSDS for various chemicals.

How to Prepare an MSDS Report?

To ensure that you convey accurate information, follow these steps:

  1.  Gather information: Check and gather all relevant details about the materials or substances in your shipment. You’ll need to provide a technical breakdown of the components to confirm that your shipment is not categorized as dangerous goods.
  2.  List health and safety hazards: Mention any health risks associated with the product along with the precautions needed to handle, store, or use the materials. Include emergency procedures and first-aid measures in case of accidental exposure.
  3. Include the UN Number: Add the four-digit UN Number, which is a unique identifier for dangerous or hazardous substances and goods.
  4. Handling and storage instructions: Clearly present information on how to properly handle and store the materials to minimize potential risks. This may include temperature, humidity, and light requirements, as well as any specific protective measures.
  5. Disposal and transport tips: Offer guidance on the appropriate methods for disposing of and transporting the materials, including any restrictions or regulations.

Does It Cost to Prepare an MSDS? If So, How Much?

Preparing an MSDS can indeed incur costs, as it often requires expert knowledge on the details of the product and its hazardous components. The cost of creating an MSDS varies depending on the company providing the service. However, if you are planning on shipping dangerous or hazardous materials, having an MSDS is essential for regulatory compliance and ensuring the safety of people handling and transporting the goods.

When it comes to the process of authoring an MSDS, you can either create one in-house or outsource it to a third-party service provider. Outsourcing can be a practical solution because it gives you access to the expertise of professionals who have experience in creating MSDS for a wide range of products. Depending on the complexity of the product, the services’ cost can range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars.

In addition, it is important to note that MSDS requirements often change as new regulations and specifications arise. As a result, you may need to periodically update your MSDS which could incur additional costs. This is an important aspect to consider in your overall MSDS budgeting process.

If you choose to create an MSDS in-house, it is essential to have personnel who are knowledgeable about the product, its hazardous components, and the relevant regulations. This ensures that the MSDS is accurate, up-to-date, and compliant with all necessary guidelines. The cost of creating an MSDS in-house varies depending on the expertise and resources you have at hand, but it might still be a cost-effective option if you have the personnel and expertise.

What if I Cannot Acquire an MSDS?

If you cannot acquire an MSDS for your shipment, there are a few steps you can take to address the issue. It’s essential to recognize that shipping hazardous materials without an MSDS is risky and might result in penalties or shipment delays.

First, check with your product manufacturer or supplier. They are typically responsible for providing an MSDS as it contains detailed information about the components or substances in the item. Most companies have a dedicated department or team member responsible for handling MSDS requests.

In case your manufacturer or supplier cannot provide an MSDS, you can consider engaging a qualified third-party service. Some companies specialize in providing MSDSs for various products, chemicals, and substances. Their expertise can help ensure your shipment meets regulatory requirements and avoids any issues during transportation.

It’s also worth exploring alternative shipping options or carriers that may not require an MSDS for your specific shipment. Do some research on different carriers’ dangerous goods requirements to determine if any of them would accommodate your shipment without an MSDS.

Lastly, when all options have been exhausted, you may have to reconsider shipping the hazardous materials in question. Legal and safety consequences of non-compliance can be severe, and it might be best to avoid shipping the materials altogether if you cannot provide the necessary documentation.

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to shipping hazardous materials. Always prioritize safety and compliance over expedited delivery or saving resources.

Storage and Packaging Standards

Storage and Packaging Standards

When dealing with hazardous goods, it’s important to follow strict standards for storage and packaging to ensure their safe transportation. As you prepare your shipment, consider these key factors:


Storage: Safely storing hazardous materials is essential to reducing the risk of accidents or damage. Ensure that you store these goods in a well-ventilated area, away from sources of ignition or excessive heat. It’s also crucial to segregate incompatible materials to prevent potential reactions.


Handling: While handling hazardous goods, use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, and masks as advised in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the specific material. This helps you reduce the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.


Packaging: Choosing the right packaging plays a vital role in preventing leaks or spills during transportation. Use containers made from materials that are compatible with the hazardous goods, and ensure they are undamaged and properly sealed. The packaging should also bear labels and markings that accurately describe the contents and their hazards.


Documentation: Including an MSDS with your shipment provides comprehensive information about the potential risks and safety measures. This allows anyone handling these goods to understand the precautions required and respond effectively in case of an emergency.

Documentation and Customs Requirements

In addition to the MSDS, other essential documents for international shipping include:

  • Commercial and Proforma Invoices: These documents detail the purchase and sale agreements between the buyer and seller.
  • Bills of Lading: This is the official shipping document and contract between the shipper and the carrier.
  • Packing List: Provides information about the shipment and its contents, such as dimensions, weight, and packaging type.
  • Shipper’s Letter of Instructions (SLI): This letter informs the carrier about important shipping details and authorizes customs clearance agents to act on your behalf.
  • Automated Export System (AES) Filing: This electronic filing is required for certain shipments with specific export requirements.
  • Certificate of Origin (CO): This document verifies the country where the shipment originates.
  • Incoterms: These standardized terms set forth each party’s responsibilities for transport, risks, and costs.

By providing complete and accurate documentation, you will ensure a smooth customs process and faster delivery of your shipment to its destination. While MSDS is essential for hazardous materials, keeping all the necessary paperwork in order will make your international shipping experience more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Classification of Dangerous Goods

Classification of Dangerous Goods

The United Nations (UN) has established a universal system for the classification of dangerous goods. Each substance is assigned a unique UN number that helps you identify it and find the necessary information for its safe handling and transportation. The system groups dangerous goods into nine primary hazard classes.

  • Class 1: Explosives – These materials pose a risk of explosion during transport. Examples include dynamite, fireworks, and detonators.
  • Class 2: Gases – This class covers compressed, liquefied, or dissolved gases under pressure. Examples are propane, oxygen, and nitrogen.
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids – These are liquids capable of igniting easily, such as gasoline, alcohol, and acetone.
  • Class 4: Flammable solids – Substances in this class can catch fire upon contact with air or friction. Examples include magnesium, sodium, and phosphorus.
  • Class 5: Oxidizing substances and organic peroxides – Oxidizing substances can cause or contribute to the combustion of other materials, while organic peroxides can be a source of heat, fire, or explosions. Examples are hydrogen peroxide, ammonium nitrate, and potassium permanganate.
  • Class 6: Toxic and infectious substances – Toxic substances pose a risk to human health if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin, while infectious substances contain pathogens that can cause disease. Examples are cyanide, mercury, and biological samples.
  • Class 7: Radioactive materials – These materials emit ionizing radiation and can damage living organisms. Examples include uranium, plutonium, and certain medical isotopes.
  • Class 8: Corrosive substances – Corrosive substances can cause severe damage to human tissue, or the materials they come into contact with, such as metal or plastic. Examples are battery acid, caustic soda, and sulfuric acid.
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous substances – This class covers any other dangerous goods that don’t fit into the other categories. Examples are asbestos, dry ice, and environmentally hazardous substances.

Understanding the classification of dangerous goods will help you properly pack, mark, and label your shipments, and it will ensure that you’re following all safety regulations. Keep this information in mind the next time you ship potentially hazardous materials to ensure a smooth and secure shipping process.

Managing Emergency Procedures

When handling hazardous materials in shipping, it’s essential to be prepared for emergencies.

In case of an emergency, your first step should be to consult the MSDS. The document offers guidance on emergency procedures, first aid measures, and handling dangerous goods. This ensures the safety of both the environment and everyone on board.

To manage emergency procedures effectively, it’s important to keep the MSDS document up-to-date and easily accessible for all crew members. Regular training sessions are also necessary so that everyone understands the proper procedures to follow in case of an emergency.

While dealing with hazardous materials, it’s recommended to have personal protective equipment (PPE), spill containment kits, and first aid supplies on hand. This can help minimize any potential risks and manage emergencies more efficiently.

In conclusion, familiarizing yourself with the MSDS for the materials being shipped and having proper emergency equipment in place reduces the likelihood of incidents and ensures a safe environment during the shipping process.

Why Choose Us? Luckystar Logistic

A freight forwarder plays a pivotal role in coordinating and arranging the transport, particularly when hazardous materials are involved. They have extensive knowledge of documentation requirements and can ensure that your MSDS is accurate, complete, and provides essential information about the hazardous substance. This guarantees that your shipment is handled properly and safely, minimizing potential risks.

Here, We have:

  • The Quickest Mode of Delivery
  • Reliable Delivery Timings
  • Wide Delivery Coverage
  • Efficient Tracking System

Established in 2022, Luckystar is an esteemed member of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and operates as a Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC). The company’s mission is to deliver superior service quality at reduced costs, primarily serving China, the USA, Canada, and Europe. With core team members boasting over 20 years of experience in logistics, Luckystar brings considerable expertise to the table. Since its inception, the company has been dedicated to offering global door-to-door transport and logistics solutions, emphasizing dependability, adaptability, and responsiveness.

We’re not just any company; we are experts in transportation! Offering industry-leading solutions, we take pride in providing premium shipping services at a fraction of the cost of other freight forwarders, both in China and across the globe. Here’s why partnering with us is the smart move:

Accuracy You Can Count On:
Say goodbye to delivery delays and hello to timely delivery, which is vital for businesses needing to deliver goods swiftly to their customers.

Your Passport to Global Reach:
Our wide network of delivery destinations virtually covers the entire globe, offering extraordinary opportunities for businesses aiming to expand their reach. You can be assured that your package will find its way to almost any corner of the world, taking your business global!

Track with Ease:
Say goodbye to guesswork. Our stringent procedures afford you a live tracking mechanism, making it easy for you to follow your shipment’s progress at every stage of its journey. Stay informed and enjoy peace of mind, knowing exactly where your shipment is anytime you need to know.

Personalized Service, Every Step of the Way:
One of our dedicated team members will personally oversee your shipment from start to finish. This, coupled with our commitment to transparency and constant communication, ensures you are kept updated on the progress of your cargo every step of the way.

When shipping hazardous materials, it’s crucial to work with experienced service providers to ensure that your shipment is handled safely and efficiently. By partnering with us, you can have peace of mind knowing that your shipment is in good hands.

Looking for an experienced freight forwarder to assist you in shipping? Reach out to us. We’re always ready to help. Offering the unbeatable cheapest shipping rates for international shipping, our services are more affordable than you’d believe. Don’t hesitate! Get in touch with us today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I get the Material Safety Data Sheet?

You can obtain the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from the chemical manufacturer, supplier, or distributor. It should be provided with each shipment of hazardous materials. You can also check online portals and databases of respective companies that may host MSDS information for their products.

What are the five items that an MSDS sheet must include?

An MSDS sheet must cover the following essential elements:

  1. Identification: The product’s name, manufacturer, contact information, and recommended uses.
  2. Hazard(s) Identification: The specific hazards associated with the chemical, including health and environmental risks.
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients: Detailed information on the chemical’s composition, including the amounts of each substance.
  4. First-Aid Measures: Instructions for providing immediate medical treatment to individuals exposed to the chemical.
  5. Fire-Fighting Measures: Appropriate extinguishing media, special hazards, and fire-fighting procedures.

Please note that a complete MSDS should have 16 sections, but these five sections cover the most critical information.

Who is responsible for issuing MSDS certificates?

The manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of the hazardous material is responsible for providing the MSDS certificate. They are required to ensure that the information provided is accurate and up-to-date to comply with regulatory requirements.

What is the difference between MSDS and COA in shipping?

In shipping, an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) provides detailed information on the chemical’s composition, hazards, safe handling, and emergency response measures. It is mandatory for shipping hazardous materials and ensures compliance with national and international regulatory standards.

On the other hand, a COA (Certificate of Analysis) is a document that certifies the quality and purity of a product. It contains information on the test results and measurements performed on the product, confirming that it meets the established specifications and standards. While the COA is more focused on product quality, the MSDS provides safety information for handling and transportation purposes.

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