Common Difficulties In Translation Of Msds And Data Sheets

Any Material Safety Data Sheet is a vital document. The flawed translation may result in physical harm to employees handling hazardous substances. From minor injuries to loss of life, the implications are severe. MSDS specifies recommended working conditions and potential dangers of exposure to chemicals. Therefore, it is essential to translate MSDS and data sheets accurately.

In Europe, the REACH Regulation sets out the standards for MSDS compliance. This includes the obligation of any company to provides translation into the mother tongue of all employees involved. Article 31, paragraph 5, says, “The safety data sheet shall be supplied in an official language of the Member State(s) where the substance or preparation is placed on the market unless the Member State(s) concerned provide otherwise.” 

For instance, in Belgium, a chemical importer is obliged to guarantee its MSDS are translated into both of the country’s official languages. These are Flemish and French. 

What MSDS Includes

MSDS sheets form the basis of any comprehensive health and safety program. The contents include the assessment of hazard in the following dimensions:

  • use, 
  • storage, 
  • handling and 
  • emergency procedures.

Although some of this information (e.g., flammability warning) may be available on product labels, MSDS sheets are complete guides that cover a wider set of aspects. Employees are informed about safe working practices, possible consequences of improper handling, actions recommended in an emergency situation and ways to recognize and prevent overexposure. Disposal methods are also included.

Translation of MSDS

The purpose is quite obvious: if foreign workers are on-site, they need to be aware of all the recommended practices just like their English-speaking peers. The same applies to any other language combination. Companies have a legal responsibility to have their MSDS translated. It is also mandatory whenever chemicals are shipped abroad.


Vocabulary Specifics

A translator has to be fluent in the relevant technical jargon. As technical documents, MSDS include substance names and terms specific to the chemical industry. Accuracy is paramount. Therefore, employers must ensure the translator is competent enough to handle the task. Sometimes, the sheets need to be certified and notarized as legal translations. 


Regional Specifics

Certain sections of MSDS must be changed in accordance with local regulations. This concerns emergency call numbers, occupational exposure limit values, and lists of applicable regulations.


Importance of Updates

Since MSDS are regularly updated, the same should apply to their translated versions. 


Hire Professionals

Due to the complexity of the task, it should not be delegated to amateurs. Contact a reputable translation agency with technical translators on staff. A professional will explain the necessary stages and produce a reliable translation and keep the texts updated. 

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