I Can't Even Spell SDS - What is it?

Safety Data Sheet shown on tablet

The Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) requires that all employees exposed to hazardous chemicals at work be trained about the chemicals' hazards and how to protect themselves BEFORE they are exposed to the chemical. The best place to gather information about a chemical, the hazards it poses to workers, and the required controls will be the product’s Safety Data Sheet, or SDS. The SDS is a document prepared by manufacturers for any product which contains chemicals or compounds that present a health and safety hazard.

At first glance, an SDS can be overwhelming. There is a lot of information to digest, and it can go on for many, many pages. Data includes the physical and environmental hazards, precautions for safe handling, storage, and transportation of the product.

In 2012, OSHA adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS includes all pertinent information about specific hazardous chemicals and is a universal standard around the world, hence the term “globally harmonized.” As a result, every SDS in the U.S. and across the globe now has 16 sections. Each section will be described below, so grab an SDS and follow along:

  • Section 1 – Identification:    
    • Identifies the chemical, its intended use, and the essential supplier contact information.
  • Section 2 - Hazard(s) Identification:
    • Identifies the product hazards and appropriate warning information including:
      • Hazard Classification, Signal Word, Hazards Statements, Hazard Pictograms, Precautionary Statements, Other hazard Descriptions.
  • Section 3 – Composition:
    • Identifies the product’s ingredient(s) including impurities and stabilizing additives.
  • Section 4 – First Aid:
    • Describes the initial treatment protocol for untrained responders to incidents of chemical exposure.
  • Section 5 – Fire Fighting:
    • Provides recommendations for fighting a fire caused by or involving the chemical.
  • Section 6 – Accidental Release Measures:
    • Provides appropriate measures for response to chemical spills, leaks, or releases to prevent or minimize exposure to people, property, or the environment.
  • Section 7 – Handling and Storage:
    • Guidance on the safe handling practices and conditions for safe storage of chemicals including incompatible chemicals, general hygiene practices (e.g., eating, drinking, and smoking in work areas is prohibited), and storage (ventilation requirements).
  • Section 8 – Exposure Control/PPE:
    • Lists chemical exposure limits, engineering controls, and personal protective measures that can be used to minimize worker exposure.
  • Section 9 – Physical and Chemical Properties:
    • Identifies the physical and chemical properties associated with the product including physical state, color, odor, flash point, UEL/LEL, etc.
  • Section 10 – Stability and Reactivity:
    • Describes any chemical reactivity hazards and stability information. This section is broken into three parts:
      • Reactivity
      • Chemical stability
      • Other
  • Section 11 – Toxicological Information:
    • Identifies likely routes of exposure and describes effects from exposure.
  • Section 12 – Ecological Information:
    • This is a non-mandatory section. It lists the environmental impact of a chemical(s) if released to the environment.
  • Section 13 – Disposal Considerations:
    • This is a non-mandatory section and outlines proper disposal, recycling or reclamation of the chemical(s) or its container, and safe handling practices.
  • Section 14 – Transportation Considerations:
    • This is a non-mandatory section and explains classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous chemical(s) by road, air, rail, or sea.
  • Section 15 – Regulatory Information:
    • This is a non-mandatory section and identifies the safety, health, and environmental regulations specific to the product.
  • Section 16 – Other Information:
    • This is a non-mandatory section and explains when the SDS was originally prepared or the last known revision date. This section of the SDS may also state where changes have been made to the previous version.

Safety Data Sheets can contain a lot of information depending on the complexity of the chemical or substances it is covering. Safe use of the product is dependent upon understanding how it is harmful and how to protect yourself. SDSs must be available to all workers using these hazardous products, so it might be time to review your inventory. SDSs may be kept in paper form or electronically as long as they are immediately available and there is a backup available in case of electronic system failure. Lastly, if you have an old Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) in your inventory, it’s time to update it to an SDS.  

For more information about Safety Data Sheets or the Hazardous Communication Standard, check out OSHA’s information page by clicking here.