Safety Data Sheets: What Are They, and Why Are They Important?

September 7, 2023

By: Nicole Quinn, Lab Technician, Triangle Fluid Controls Ltd.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS), previously known as a Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), is a standardized document that provides information about the properties, hazards, and safe handling of a chemical substance or product. SDSs are essential tools for workplace safety and are typically prepared and provided by manufacturers, distributors, or importers of chemicals. They serve several important purposes:

Hazard Communication: SDSs are a key component of hazard communication programs in workplaces. They ensure that employees and other users are informed about the potential hazards associated with the chemicals they work with.

Emergency Response: SDSs contain important information for emergency responders in the event of accidents, spills, or chemical exposures. This information helps responders understand how to handle the situation safely.

Safe Handling and Storage: SDSs provide guidelines for the safe storage, handling, and disposal of chemicals. They include information on personal protective equipment (PPE), exposure control measures, and first aid procedures.

Environmental Considerations: SDSs may also contain information about the environmental impact of a chemical and guidelines for safe disposal to minimize environmental harm.

The term Material Safety Data Sheet is gradually being replaced by Safety Data Sheet, this change was part of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The goal of the GHS is to standardize the format and content of safety data sheets internationally and make it easier for companies and individuals to understand and work with safety data sheets regardless of their locations. The GHS Safety Data Sheets follow a standardized format, consisting of 16 sections in a set order:

1. Product and Company Identification
Identifies the product, manufacturer, recommended uses, and contact information.
2. Hazards Identification
Discusses exposure risks, health effects, including acute and chronic exposure, carcinogenicity, irritancy, and potential environmental effects.
3. Composition, Information on Ingredients
Lists ingredients (hazardous or by-products) with percentages and CAS numbers for further reference.
4. First Aid Measures
Provides immediate actions in case of accidental exposure.
5. Fire Fighting Measures
Highlights fire hazards and recommended firefighting procedures.
6. Accidental Release Measures
Instructs on spill response, including steps and materials for cleanup.
7. Handling And Storage
Offers guidance on safe material handling and storage based on associated hazards.
8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
Details engineering controls (e.g., ventilation) and personal protective equipment required for safe handling.
9. Physical and Chemical Properties
Provides physical properties (color, odor, etc.) and chemical properties (boiling point, solubility, flammability).
10. Stability And Reactivity
Describes conditions that can make the material unstable and identifies materials to avoid due to dangerous reaction.
11. Toxicological Information
Includes information on potential health hazards.
12. Ecological Information
Evaluates environmental impacts if the material is released.
13. Disposal Considerations
Outlines proper disposal methods in compliance with regulations.
14. Transport Information
Provides information on transport precautions and regulations.
15. Regulatory Information
Lists references to applicable health, safety, and environmental laws and regulations.
16. Other Information
Contains details about the author, preparation dates, review dates, revisions, and disclaimers.

It’s important for employees and employers to have access to SDSs for the chemicals they work with, and they should be readily available in the workplace to ensure the safe handling and use of chemicals in accordance with regulatory requirements.

It is important to conduct regular reviews of SDSs to verify their current status and to keep all relevant parties informed. Safety Data Sheets are readily available for all Durlon® products and can be viewed and downloaded here.