What is mean by MSDS?

The abbreviation for MSDS is material safety data sheet, also known as safety data sheet (SDS) or product safety data sheet (PSDS). Any industry be it a chemical industry, manufacturing industry, or electrical industry, all use various equipment which possesses a certain degree of risk factors regarding the health of the workers. MSDS is a type of documentation that bears information related to the safety and health of the workers regarding the use of different equipment, products, chemicals, etc. MSDS outlines detailed information in a catalog, regarding electrical equipment, wiring, installations, etc cautioning the personals with their associated risks.

In other words, it is a communication tool, which outlines the electrical hazards in a lucid and familiar format. Working in the electrical domain has many divisions and electrical works, each department and task requires a specific amount of knowledge and training. These workers require specific task-related training, especially in the area of trade and craft jobs. An MSDS serves as an important tool to alert these workers which might push them towards electrocution or even death.

An example of MSDS.
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Image credits: https://upload.wikimedia.org | Sigma Aldrich

MSDS can also be carried out in a firm by the employers, as a general safety program, a means for communicating knowledge and safety awareness. Sometimes the MSDS is incorporated in a company's electrical safety program under the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E. The NFPA 70E is an electrical safety requirement standard of the 2000 edition. Also, the information document of the MSDS contains the electrical wiring information under the National Electrical Code (NEC), 2002.

The MSDS compares electricity to oxygen, which is silent and requires constant flow to sustain something. As excessive oxygen can lead to damages and sometimes it may initiate an explosion to something, in the same way, the flow of electrons that causes the electricity is damaging and devastating.

Elements of MSDS

The primary aim of an electrical MSDS is to convey the damaging impacts of electricity on humans. Here in this section, some of the main elements of MSDS regarding electricity are outlined.

Nature of electricity

Electrons are the primary constituent elements of electricity. These are the charge carriers in a metallic conductor like aluminum, copper, iron, etc. The movements of electrons lead to the flow of current that alternates in nature. The frequency ranges from 50 Hz to 60 Hz.

Electrical breakdown

The power frequency electrical sources have a dielectric breakdown. As a normal safety practice to safeguard from electrical breakdown or electrical arching, usually an inch of the gap is maintained between two conductors for every electrical line having a potential difference of 1000 V. These act as an air gap or air cushion. This information is conveyed to the workers working in high voltage electrical lines.

Electrical explosivity

An explosion occurs when high power delivery is confined in a small area that exceeds the limits of a device. More power transferred in smaller geometrical areas over time leads to electrical explosions. Hence, for the safe operation of the components, they are built following the electrical standards laid down by NEC.


It is the exposure of the human body to electricity. It interferes with the human body's electrical activity leading to heart and brain damage. The activity of the heart gets altered when a current less than 0.1 A at 110 V flows through a human body resulting in improper blood circulation ultimately leading to brain injury and organ damage.

Establishing an electrical safe working condition

A de-energized and verified electrical equipment is considered to be safe for handling purposes. Here in this section some of the points laid down by NFPA 70E in article 120.1 are summarized below:

  • All the electrical connections and sources are to be determined. If required drawings and electrical plans should be referred to carry out the same.
  • The load current must be disconnected and the devices should be opened for each source.
  • The switches of the circuit breakers should be fully in the open position.
  • Lockout and Tagout devices should be implemented under the standards and policies.
  • A proper voltage detector should be used to test each phase of the circuit to verify they are de-energized. Before carrying this operation, it should also be checked that the voltage detector is in full working condition.
  • In case of the possibility of induced voltages and energized sources, it should be properly grounded before manually touching them.

Approach boundaries

Approach boundaries are also known as shock protection boundaries. There are three approach boundaries laid outlined by NFPA 70E they are summarized below:

Limited approach boundary

The limited approach boundary is provided to safeguard a worker from electrical shock. According to this, a minimum distance from the energized source should be maintained for a particular voltage. To cross this boundary, an unqualified person should be accompanied by a qualified person.

Restricted approach boundary

The standard operating protocol (SOP) for restricted approach boundary is similar to the limited approach boundary. The personnel should use personal protective equipment (PPE) when any person crosses this boundary.

Prohibited approach boundary

This approach lays out prohibitions in making direct contact with the energizing source. Work persons are allowed to enter into the boundary with proper PPE suits accompanied by qualified persons.

Context and Applications

This topic is taught in undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses like:

  • Bachelors of Technology (Electrical Engineering)
  • Bachelors of Technology (Electrical and Electronics Engineering)
  • Masters of Technology (Electrical Engineering)

Practice Probelms

Q1. What is the abbreviation for NFPA?

a. National Fire Protection Association

b. National Fire Protection Agency

c. National Fire Prevention Association

d. National Fire Prevention Agency

Answer: Option a

Explanation: The National Fire Protection Association or NFPA is an international organization that is dedicated to reducing hazards resulting from electrical and other sources.

Q2. How many approach boundaries are outlined by the NFPA?

a. One

b. Three

c. Four

d. Two

Answer: Option b

Explanation: In order to eliminate electrical hazards the NFPA laid down three boundaries namely, limited approach boundary, redistricted boundary, and prohibited approach boundary.

Q3. What is the full form of MSDS?

a. Material safe data sheet

b. Material safety document sheet

c. Material safe document sheet

d. Material safety data sheet

Answer: Option d

Explanation: The material safety data sheet or MSDS is a documentation or information sheet, that outlines safety measures and information regarding safe handling of electrical equipment, chemical products, manufacturing tools, etc.

Q4. What is the minimum current value which leads to altered heart functions?

a. 1 A

b. Less than 0.5 A

c. 0.5 A

d. More than 0.5 A

Answer: Option b

Explanation: A human's heart functions abnormally when a current less than 0.5 A at 110 V flows through human body.

Q5. Which of the following leads to explosion due to electricity?

a. High power delivery is confined in a large area

b. High power delivery is confined in a small area

c. Both a and b

d. None of these

Answer: Option b

Explanation: Continuous high voltage flow when passed trough devices with small geometrical area, at a certain time threshold limit of the device exceeds resulting in explosion.

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