The safety data sheet, also known as an SDS, is an essential component of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and of a worker's right to know about the chemical hazards at his or her workplace.
In this article, we'll explain what an SDS is, how it's related to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and to the GHS-alignment of Haz-Com, what you'll find in its sixteen different sections, and even give you some additional information about SDSs, including issues related to employer responsibilities and employee access.
Before you begin to read, feel free to download our SDS Management Software Buyer's Guide.
Impurities and stabilizers, which must be classified and which must contribute to the classification of the chemical
All the same information listed above for substances
The chemical name and concentration, expressed in terms of exact percentages, of all ingredients which are classified as health hazards and are (1) present above their cut-off/concentration limits or (2) present a health risk below the cut-off/concentration limits
The concentration, expressed as exact percentages, of each ingredient. Alternatively, "concentration ranges" may be used (1) for trade secret claims, (2) where there is batch-to-batch variation, or (3) when the SDS is used for a group of substantially similar mixtures.
Chemicals Where Trade Secrets Are Claimed:
For chemicals where trade secrets are claimed, must include a statement that the specific chemical identity and/or concentration (expressed as an exact percentage) of composition has been withheld as a trade secret.
SDS Section 4: First-Aid Measures
Describes initial first-aid that untrained responders should provide to a person who's been exposed to the chemical.
Description of most important symptoms and effects, plus any symptoms that are acute or delayed
First aid instructions for various exposure routes (inhalation, skin contact, eye contact, ingestion)
Recommendations for immediate medical care and special treatment, if necessary
SDS Section 5: Fire-Fighting Measures
Lists recommendations for fighting a fire the chemical causes.
Recommendations of appropriate fire-extinguishing equipment
Information about fire-extinguishing equipment that is NOT appropriate for a particular situation
Advice on specific hazards that develop from the chemical during a fire. For example, any hazardous combustion products created.
Recommendations on special protective equipment (PPE) or precautions for fire fighters
SDS Section 6: Accidental Release Measures
Includes information on responding to spills, leaks, or releases, including containment procedures and cleanup practices. May also include recommendations that distinguish between efforts for large and small spills when spill volume has a significant impact on the hazard.
Recommendations for use of personal precautions and protective equipment to prevent contamination to skin, eyes, and clothes
Emergency procedures, including instructions for evacuations, consulting experts when required, and appropriate protective clothing
Containment methods and materials
SDS Section 7: Handling and Storage
Recommendations on safe handling practices and conditions for safe storage.
Precautions for safe handling. Must include recommendations for handling incompatible chemicals, minimizing the release of chemicals into environment, and advice on general hygiene practices (eating, drinking, and smoking in work areas)
Recommendations on safe storage conditions, including any incompatibilities, including specific storage requirements
The SDS may not contain every item on the above list because information may not be relevant or is not available. When this occurs, a notation to that effect must be made for that chemical property. Manufacturers may also add other relevant properties, such as the dust deflagration index (Kst) for combustible dust, used to evaluate a dust's explosive potential.
SDS Section 10: Stability and Reactivity
Describes the chemical's stability information and reactivity hazards.
This section is broken into three smaller sections. Required information is explained below.
Describes specific test data for the chemical(s). Data can be for a class or family of the chemical.
Indication of whether the chemical is stable or unstable under normal ambient temperature and conditions while in storage and while being handled
Description of any stabilizer that may be needed for chemical stability
Indication of any safety issues that may arise should the physical appearance of the product change
Indication of the possibility of hazardous reactions, including a statement whether the chemical will react or polymerize, which could release excess heat or pressure, or create other hazardous conditions, as well as a description of the conditions under which hazardous reactions may occur.
A list of all conditions that should be avoided
A list of all classes of incompatible materials with which the chemical could react to produce a hazardous situation
A list of any known or anticipated hazardous decomposition products that could be produced because of use, storage, or heating. These should also be listed in Section 5 of the SDS, which covers fire-fighting measures.
SDS Section 11: Toxicological Information
Lists the toxicological and health effects information, or indicates that the data is not available.
Likely routes of exposure, such as inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, and/or eye contact. Must also indicate if the information is unknown.
Description of symptoms, including symptoms associated with lowest to most severe exposures
Description of immediate, delayed, or chronic effects from short short-term and long-term exposure
Indicates when the safety data sheet was prepared or when the last known revision was made. May also explain what changes were made from last version. May also include any other useful information.
More About Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
Well, that's a LOT of information about safety data sheets, but we'll add a few more points below.
They should be created by chemical manufacturers
Employers should make sure they have a safety data sheet at the workplace for all hazardous chemicals
Employers must allow employees to access those safety data sheets at any time during their work shift
Safety data sheets must be accessible to workers "in the work area"
It's OK to keep paper-based safety data sheets or to keep them digitally on a computer
As OSHA puts it:
The employer shall maintain in the workplace copies of the required safety data sheets for each hazardous chemical, and shall ensure that they are readily accessible during each work shift to employees when they are in theirwork area(s).
Conclusion: Safety Data Sheets Continue a Worker's Right to Know
Safety data sheets, also known as as SDSs, are a continuation of the OSHA Haz-Com's regulations to guarantee an employee's "right to know" about the chemical hazards in their workplace.
Let us know if you have more questions about safety data sheets or the OSHA Hazard Communication regulation.
Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.