Understanding Safety Data Sheets

Published 8th May 2019

What is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

Safety data sheets provide information on chemical products that help users of those chemicals to make a risk assessment. They describe the hazards the chemical presents and give information on chemical handling, storage, and emergency measures in case of an accident.

The information in a safety data sheet is arranged under 16 headings to allow relevant information to be easily located by the person using the chemical.

Why is a Safety Data Sheet Important?

The SDS is an important information resource for workers and persons managing the risks of chemical handling in the workplace.  It is important that workers read the SDS carefully and understand its contents before working with a hazardous chemical so that it can be safely stored, handled or used.

The SDS can be used to assist in assessing specific risks associated with a chemical and in training workers on how to use a chemical safely.

Important Note – A safety data sheet does NOT constitute a risk assessment. It provides information for consideration when carrying out risk assessments. Chemical handling requires consideration of all the chemicals used and their interaction, not single chemicals in isolation.

Where do I get Chemical Handling Information From?

The supplier of a chemical must provide, free of charge, a copy of the manufacturer or importer’s safety data sheet with the chemical on first supply to the workplace or when asked to do so. If the supplier has not provided you with an SDS for the chemical you are using, you should ask for it before handling that chemical.

What Information is on a Safety Data Sheet?

An SDS which complies with the WHS Regulations contains the following 16 separate sections each with specific information relating to the chemical being used, handled, stored, transported or disposed of.

Section 1 – Identification

Contains the product identifier or tradename, contact details of the manufacturer or importer responsible for supplying the chemical, and the telephone number to contact in case of an emergency. The information in this section should be consistent with the label.

Section 2 – Hazard(s) identification

Gives details on the potential health and physical hazards of the chemical. This information can be used to help assess the risks to the health and safety of workers, other people, and the environment. The information in this section should be consistent with the information on the label. In some cases, there may be more information on the SDS than on the label.

Section 3 – Composition and information on ingredients

If the chemical is a mixture, this section should provide the information on the identity and proportions of hazardous ingredients in the mixture.

Section 4 – First-aid measures

Describes the necessary first aid measures to be taken in case of an accident.

Section 5 – Fire-fighting measures

Gives specific information on fighting a fire involving the chemical, including the most suitable extinguishing media and other protective measures.

Section 6 – Accidental release measures

Describes what actions need to be taken if there is an accidental release or spill during chemical handling, to minimise adverse effects on people, property and the environment.

Section 7 – Handling and storage

Contains details on how to minimise the potential risks to people, property and the environment during chemical handling and storage.

Section 8 – Exposure controls and personal protection

Provides information on control measures that can be used to reduce exposure, for example, engineering controls, information on exposure standards and guidance on required personal protective equipment (PPE).

Section 9 – Physical and chemical properties

This section of the safety data sheet includes detailed information on the physical and chemical properties of the chemical, for example, appearance, odour, pH, flash point, melting/boiling point or any other relevant physical data.

Section 10 – Stability and reactivity

Contains details of any hazardous reactions that may occur if the chemical is used under certain conditions and details of any incompatible materials

Section 11 – Toxicological information

This section gives detailed information on the toxicological properties of the chemical.

Section 12 – Ecological information

Provides detailed information on the ecological hazard properties of the chemical.

Section 13 – Disposal considerations

Chemical Handling information such as how to dispose of, recycle or reclaim correctly after use.

Section 14 – Transport information

Contains basic classification information like UN number and transport hazard classes and packing groups that relate to the transport of the chemical by road, rail, sea or air.

Section 15 – Regulatory information

Provides advice on other international or national regulatory information specific to the chemical, such as the Montreal Protocol (ozone depleting substances), the Stockholm Convention (Persistent organic pollutants), Poisons scheduling or any other applicable Australian prohibition, notification or licensing requirements.

Section 16 – Any other relevant information

Provides any other information relevant to the preparation of the safety data sheet, including the date of its preparation, a key or legend to abbreviations acronyms and references used.

Talk to a Chemical Management Expert about Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets are important to prevent hazardous chemicals causing harm to people or the environment. By taking part in the Chem-MAP® programme, your business can assess the chemicals and materials within your supply chains and use MRSL to help you work towards Zero Discharge of Hazardous Substances. To discuss your chemical management needs, including the use of safety data sheets, please email info@chem-map.com, call +44 (0)1604 679999 or complete the form at the bottom of this web page.

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