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How to Read a Safety Data Sheet?

A Guide to Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) - is an information sheet for use in workplace chemical management. They provide basic information about a product's content, potential hazards and physical characteristics as well as providing information necessary to allow the product to be used safely. SDS's are used globally and replace the MSDS with a standardized format that provides more consistent information from all chemical manufacturers and/or distributors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires manufacturers or distributors of hazardous materials to assess the physical and health hazards of chemicals or products and provide that information in a SDS. The manufacturer or distributor must forward the SDS to the purchaser with the initial shipment of each product free of charge. Based on the new Globally Harmonized System, Safety Data Sheets are required to have a specific 16 section format that must contain the same hazard information.

OSHA requires that Safety Data Sheets be available for every chemical used in the workplace for employees to view anytime during their work shift. SDS should be available in your laboratory, your departmental office, or the EH&S "SDS Resource" webpage.

The following example is based upon the required OSHA Globally Harmonized System, Safety Data Sheet 16 section format:

  1. Identification of the Substance or Mixture and Supplier Information
    • Product Identifier
    • Recommended use of the chemical and restrictions on use
    • Supplier's details:Name, Address, Phone Number, and Emergency Phone Number
  2. Hazards Identification
    • GHS classification of the material
    • GHS label elements:Pictogram, Precautionary and hazard statements
    • Other hazards which do not result in classification or not covered by GHS
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
    • Chemical identity
    • Common name, synonyms
    • CAS number/EC number
    • Impurities and stabilizing agents which are classified and contribute to the classification
  4. First Aid Measures
    • Description of necessary measures, divided by exposure route
    • Most important symptoms and/or effects either acute or delayed
    • Indication of immediate medical attention and special treatment, if necessary
  5. Firefighting Measures
    • Suitable and unsuitable extinguishing media
    • Specific hazards that may arise if combustion occurs
    • Special protective equipment and precautions for firefighters
  6. Accidental Release Measures
    • Precautions, personal protective equipment and emergency procedures
    • Environmental precautions
    • Methods and materials for containment and clean up
  7. Handling and Storage
    • Safe handling precautions
    • Conditions for safe storage
    • Includes any incompatibilities
  8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
    • Control parameters (e.g. Occupational Exposure Limit Values)
    • Engineering controls
    • Individual protection measures and equipment needed (e.g. personal protective equipment)
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties
    • Appearance (color, physical state, etc.)
    • Odor
    • Odor threshold
    • pH
    • Melting point/Freezing point
    • Boiling point and range
    • Flash point
    • Evaporation rate
    • Flammability
    • Upper/Lower flammability or exposure limits
    • Vapor Pressure and density
    • Solubility
    • Autoignition temperature
    • Decomposition temperature
  10. Stability and Reactivity
    • Chemical stability
    • Possible hazardous reactions
    • Conditions to avoid
    • Incompatible materials
    • Hazardous decomposition products
  11. Toxicological Information
    • Information on likely routes of exposure
    • Symptoms related to physical, chemical and toxicological characteristics
    • Delayed and immediate effects and also chronic effects from short and long term exposure
    • Numerical measures of toxicity
  12. Other Information 
    • Includes information on preparation and revision of the SDS
  13. Disposal Considerations
    • Information for safe handling and methods of disposal for the chemical and contaminated packaging
  14. Transport Information
    • UN Number
    • UN Proper shipping name
    • Transport hazard class(es)
    • Packing group
    • Marine pollutant
    • Any special precautions
  15. Regulatory Information
    • Environmental, health and safety regulations specific to the substance in question
  16. Other Information 
    • Includes information on preparation and revision of the SDS

If you need assistance, contact EH&S at 252-328-6166 or