What is Material Safety Data Sheet?

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The material safety data sheet – better known as MSDS is a supporting document for your shipment. It contains detailed information on the contents of your shipment with a technical breakdown of the components or substances in your item to prove that it does not fall under the dangerous goods (DG) category. It is recommended to have an introductory understanding of DG classifications and DHL Express’s DG capabilities before foraying deeper on this topic. You should have prior knowledge of what kinds of commodities that DHL Express cannot accept regardless of an MSDS.

Shipping DG with DHL Express has certain limitations, requirements, and may incur additional surcharges. So it is important for you to produce an MSDS if the contents of your shipments might be mistaken, perceived, or can be related to dangerous goods. On top of your air waybill and invoice, if you produce an MSDS when shipping, you will be able to send the shipment as a regular shipment once it has been validated.

We are covering some of the basics of MSDS and DG shipments. You should refer to these notes as a guideline, but not a conclusive regulation on the requirements of MSDS. If you are uncertain, you should check with our specialists prior to shipping.


No. The MSDS serves as proof that your shipment is not classified as a dangerous good. DHL Express is fully compliant with international shipping laws – therefore, we have to remain vigilant and be careful of how we handle each shipment. 

Different countries may also have different requirements, so there is no hard and fast rule for the need for an MSDS. The bottom line is, in the event that your contents are an authorised dangerous good, they will have to adhere to proper packaging and transportation guidelines.

Below we will discuss some common classifications of items that might be considered dangerous goods, and how an MSDS will act as a confirmation that DHL Express can ship this as a regular shipment.


When you are sending any form of liquid – you should have an MSDS ready. It is very important for us to know the chemical components of any liquid being shipped. For example, if the liquid is flammable, it will immediately be considered a dangerous good and will be rejected. However, if the liquid has an acceptable tolerance that shows the safety of it in its physical state, the MSDS should back it up.

Common commodities include: paint and non-alcoholic hand sanitisers

Almost all forms of electronics have a battery component. Whether or not the battery has been removed, you should always have an MSDS ready for our team to ascertain its eligibility for transportation. Batteries are a restricted commodity, meaning that they can be shipped by approved account customers under the correct circumstances. If you would like to learn more about shipping batteries, click here.

Similar to shipping liquids, powders pose a risk when being transported, and worse if the powder’s state is susceptible to volatility when exposed to various elements. It is understandable that an MSDS is required to show the breakdown of the contents. If your MSDS is approved, remember to pack your powder appropriately to avoid spillage!

These are the 3 most common categories that would require MSDSs. However, as a general guideline, any item that might pose a fire hazard should have an MSDS to warrant their eligibility to be transported as a generic cargo. 


In most circumstances, MSDSs are readily obtainable online – especially if they are commercialised/readily available products in the market. However, in the event that the contents of your shipment are unique, you must create your own MSDS. If you manufactured the item, you should be able to produce a document indicating the breakdown of the contents in its physical state and the transportation requirements. These are the two most important aspects of the MSDS, typically found in section (9) & (14) respectively. 

Our in-house team of MSDS specialists will evaluate the integrity of the document. It is important to note that all MSDSs should be dated and have a validity period of usually 2-3 years.


It affects the overall transit time of your shipment. Most DG shipments have to be sent on cargo-only flights which are not as frequent as our daily flight schedules. On top of that, DG shipments are subject to more stringent security and customs inspections. We aim to deliver all your shipments in the quickest way possible – and your accurate declarations will play a significant part to speed up your delivery.

In most situations, DHL Express will hold back on processing your shipment until we receive the correct documentation. In the most extreme situations, we will reject the shipment and/or return it to you.

DHL Express employs a team of DG and MSDS experts that are able to efficiently help and advise you.