The Ultimate Guide to Safety Data Sheets
Safety Data Sheets
The Ultimate Guide to Safety Data Sheets

Employer Responsibilities

Employers must ensure that the SDSs are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. This may be done in many ways. For example, employers may keep the SDSs in a binder or on computers.

Using Online-SDS by KHA will ensure employees have immediate access to the information they need without leaving their work area. Online-SDS also provides a back-up for immediate offline access to the SDS in the case of a power outage or other emergency.

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Why we built this guide

We built this guide to safety data sheets to bring a clearer understanding of what information is included in an SDS. We will go in depth and explain exactly what information you will find in each of the 16 sections of a GHS compliant safety data sheet.

Introduction to Safety Data Sheets

The International Hazard Communication Standard requires chemical manufacturers to communicate all chemical hazard information to chemical handlers by supplying Safety Data Sheets (SDS). These documents are not only a crucial piece in the prevention of workplace accidents, related to the handling of chemicals, they are invaluable in times of a workplace emergency.

Various countries and U.S. regulatory agencies have different requirements for hazard definitions and the information to be included in safety data sheets. In recent years, the transition to the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) has made Safety Data Sheets more user friendly, as GHS is now the standardized approach to hazard communication.

What is the Globally Harmonized System?

The answer to this question is very detailed and quite extensive. In short, GHS was created for standardizing the classification and labeling of chemicals. It helps to define the physical and environmental hazards of a given chemical and communicate that information on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) in an easy to follow format that is consistent for all chemical products. For a more comprehensive view of this system, check out OSHA’s Guide to GHS.

Safety Data Sheet Sections

Section 1 – Identification of Chemical Product and Manufacturer

This section provides identification information pertaining to the chemical product and the manufacturer of the product. In addition, the intended use of the product is listed to ensure that the end user is properly utilizing the product.
The product name and all related synonyms are also present in this section, making it easier for a chemical handler to reference. In the case of emergency, this section also houses the contact information for the manufacturer (company name, address, phone number) along with all emergency phone numbers.

Section 2 – Hazards Identification

This section contains information regarding all the hazards associated with the chemical or product. The user can quickly and easily identify the ways in which the chemical may be dangerous, including if the product is a skin, eye or respiratory irritant. Also included in this section are the elements that are required to be included on the label for the product. This information includes all GHS hazard pictograms, signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements. The GHS pictograms give the user a quick visual reference as to the nature of the hazards, while the signal word (warning or danger) gives a concise answer as to the severity of the hazard. The precautionary statements provide a description as to the effect of each hazard in a short sentence (P260 – Do not breathe vapors, mist, or spray), providing an effective description of what to look out for when using the chemical or product. Additional hazards, not otherwise classified, are also listed in section 2.

Section 3 – Composition / Information on ingredients

As the title suggests, this section lists the chemical composition of the material including the CAS number, the chemical name and the ingredient percentages as well as the classification for each chemical. This section allows the user to see which ingredients contribute to the GHS classification and take the appropriate measures to minimize the hazards of those ingredients.
NOTE: Due to proprietary data, the ingredient percentages are shown in a range to protect a product’s exact chemical recipe.

Section 4 – First Aid Measures

This section includes information regarding first aid measures to be followed for various symptoms caused by incorrect use or accidental misuse of the product.

  • Description of First Aid Measures – This sub-section will address first aid measures to be followed in the cases of inhalation, skin contact, ingestion, etc. These measures will vary by product depending on the chemical hazards of the specific product.
  • Most Important Symptoms and Effects Both Acute and Delayed – This sub-section will address the symptoms and effects of inhalation, skin contact, ingestion, etc. of the product.

Section 5 – Fire-Fighting Measures

Fire-fighting measures are broken up into specific sub-sections, including Extinguishing Media, Special Hazards Arising from the Substance or Mixture, Advice for Firefighters and References to Other Sections in the SDS.

  • Extinguishing Media – This sub-section will list the suitable extinguishing media and the unsuitable extinguishing media specific to the product.
  • Special Hazards Arising from the Substance or Mixture – This sub-section will cover fire, explosion and reactivity hazards associated with the product.
  • Advice for Firefighters – This sub-section covers precautionary measures, firefighting instructions, protection during firefighting and hazardous combustion products.
  • Reference to other sections – Will provide references to other sections in the SDS that are important to take into consideration.

Section 6 – Accidental Release Measures

This section lists Emergency Procedures, Protective Equipment and Proper Containment and Cleanup Methods. In addition, there are any references to other sections of the SDS that are important to Accidental Release of a chemical product.

Section 7 – Handling & Storage

This section covers the proper handling and storage recommendations for the chemical product.

  • Precautions for Safe Handling – This sub-section includes instructions on how to safely handle the chemical product and what hygiene measures should be followed once you are done handling the chemical.
  • Conditions for Safe Storage – This sub-section covers the recommendations for the storage conditions of the chemical product, including the temperature in which the product should be stored and what other materials are incompatible.
  • Specific End User(s) – Gives the recommended uses of the product.

Section 8 – Exposure Controls / Personal Protection

This section specifies Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and appropriate engineering controls for the chemical product.

Section 9 – Physical & Chemical Properties

This section provides basic information related to the physical and chemical properties of the product. This section is particularly useful in times when a user needs to identify a material that has been moved to a secondary container and improperly labeled. With the information in this section, the user can make sure the product they are using matches the properties listed in by the supplier.
The minimum required information in this section includes:

  • Appearance (physical state, color, etc.)
  • Odor
  • Odor threshold
  • pH
  • Melting/freezing point
  • Initial boiling point and boiling range
  • Flash point
  • Evaporation Rate
  • Flammability (solid, gas)
  • Upper/lower flammability/explosive limits
  • Vapor pressure
  • Vapor density
  • Relative density
  • Solubility(ies)
  • Partition coefficient: n-octanol/water
  • Auto-ignition temperature
  • Decomposition temperature
  • Viscosity

Not every SDS will contain all this information because some of these properties may not be relevant to all chemicals or products. When this occurs a notation to that effect must be made for that chemical property.

Section 10 – Stability & Reactivity

This section contains information regarding the stability and reactivity of a chemical product and is composed of three sub-sections:

  • Reactivity – Description of the specific test data for the chemical(s). This data represents the anticipated hazard of the chemical(s).
  • Chemical Stability – Description of whether the chemical is stable or unstable under normal ambient temperatures and conditions while in storage and being handled. This description may also include information regarding any stabilizers needed to maintain chemical stability. This sub-section may also indicate any safety issues that may arise from changes in physical appearance of the product.
  • Other – This sub-section may contain information about the possibility of hazardous reactions, conditions that should be avoided (static discharge, shock, vibration, etc.), incompatible materials and hazardous decomposition products.

Section 11 – Toxicological Information

This section provides a complete description of health effects and data used to identify the health hazards for the chemical product. At a minimum, this section should communicate the same hazards as found in Section 2 but will often include more health hazard concerns that may not directly result in a classification. This section will also note if the chemical product is listed by organizations such as the National Toxicology Program (NTP) or International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

*NOTE: Sections 12 through 15 are regulated by other agencies and are not mandatory for OSHA compliance.

Section 12 – Ecological Information (Non-Mandatory) *

This section includes information regarding the environmental impacts of the chemical product if it were released to the environment. This information may include specifics regarding Biodegradation, Toxicity to fish, Mobility in soil and Other adverse effects.

Section 13 – Disposal Considerations (Non-Mandatory) *

This section includes information regarding proper disposal practices for the chemical product. This section may include specific information regarding sewage disposal recommendations, waste disposal recommendations and any special precautions for landfills or incineration of the chemical.

Section 14 – Transport Information (Non-Mandatory) *

This section covers the classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous chemicals by air, rail, road, or sea. Information in this section may include:

  • UN Number
  • UN proper shipping name
  • Transport hazard class
  • Packing group number based on the degree of hazard
  • Environmental hazards
  • Guidance on transport in bulk
  • Any special precautions that an employee should be aware of in connection with transport either within or outside their premises

Section 15 – Regulatory Information (Non-Mandatory) *

This section identifies the safety, health, and environmental regulations specific for the product that is no indicated anywhere else within the safety data sheet.

Section 16 – Other Information

This section includes information regarding the last known revision date of the SDS. You may want to contact the manufacturer to receive a clarification of the revisions.

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