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Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

NFPA Diamond

The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a detailed information bulletin prepared by the manufacturer, distributor, or importer of a chemical that describes the physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control measures.  Information on an SDS aids in the selection of safe products and helps prepare employers and employees to respond effectively to daily exposure situations as well as to emergency situations.

The SDSs are a comprehensive source of information for all types of employers.  There may be information on the SDS that is not useful to you or not important to the safety and health in your particular operation.  Concentrate on the information that is applicable to your situation.  Generally, hazard information and protective measures should be the focus of concern.

Your Rights

  1. Your workplace is required to have Safety Data Sheets available for every single hazardous chemical or substance you use or encounter as a part of your job.
  2. These must be readily available for employee review at all times you are in the work place! In other words, they cannot be locked in an office or filing cabinet to which you do not have access.
  3. If you request to see an SDS for a product you use at work, and your employer cannot show it to you, after one working day you may refuse to work with that product until you are shown the correct SDS.
  4. If you request your own personal copy of a Safety Data Sheet, your employer has 15 working days to provide it.

If you do not know where the SDSs for your area are kept, find out!

Employer Responsibilities

Employers must ensure that each employee has a basic knowledge of how to find information on an SDS and how to properly make use of that information. Employers also must ensure the following:

  • Complete and accurate SDSs are made available during each work shift to employees when they are in their work areas.
  • Information is provided for each hazardous chemical.

Employers must ensure that the SDSs are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. This may be done in many ways. For example, employers may keep the SDSs in a binder or on computers as long as the employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area when needed and a back-up is available for rapid access to the SDS in the case of a power outage or other emergency. Furthermore, employers may want to designate a person(s) responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDSs. If the employer does not have an SDS, the employer or designated person(s) should contact the manufacturer to obtain one.

Sections of an SDS and Their Significance

What Information is Provided on an SDS?

  1. Identification of the chemical and its supplier
  2. Hazard(s) Identification
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
  4. First-Aid Measures
  5. Fire-Fighting Measures
  6. Accidental Release Measures
  7. Handling and Storage
  8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties
  10. Stability and Reactivity
  11. Toxicological Information
  12. Ecological Information (non-mandatory)*
  13. Disposal Considerations (non-mandatory)*
  14. Transport Information (non-mandatory)*
  15. Regulatory Information (non-mandatory)*
  16. Other Information, including date of SDS preparation or last revision

Sections 1 through 8 contain general information about the chemical, identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices, and emergency control measures. Sections 9 through 11 and 16 contain other technical and scientific information, such as physical and chemical properties, information about stability and reactivity, toxicology, exposure control, and other information for any required element.

*The SDS must also contain sections 12 through 15 to be consistent with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), but OSHA will not enforce the content of these sections because they concern matters handled by other agencies.

OSHA specifies the precise format and headings as well as the information to be included on an SDS. The SDS must be in English (other languages may be included if appropriate) and must include at least the following information:

Section 1.   Identification
This section identifies the chemical on the SDS as well as its recommended uses. It also provides the essential contact information of the supplier. Required information:

  • Product identifier used on the label and any other common names or synonyms by which the substance is known.
  • Name, address, phone number of the manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party, and emergency phone number.
  • Recommended use of the chemical (e.g., a brief description of what it actually does, such as flame retardant) and any restrictions on its use (including recommendations given by the supplier).

Section 2.   Hazard(s) Identification
This section identifies the hazards of the chemical presented on the SDS and the appropriate warning information associated with those hazards. Required information:

  • The hazard classification of the chemical (e.g., flammable liquid, category).
  • Signal word
  • Hazard statement(s)
  • Pictograms (these hazard symbols may be in black and white or be a description of the name of the symbol (e.g., skull & crossbones, flame, etc.)
  • Precautionary statement(s)
  • Description of any hazards not otherwise classified
  • For a mixture that contains an ingredient(s) with unknown toxicity, there will be a statement describing how much (percentage) of the mixture consists of ingredient(s) with unknown acute toxicity. This is a total percentage of the mixture and is not tied to the individual ingredient(s).

Section 3.   Composition/Information on Ingredients
This section identifies the ingredient(s) contained in the product indicated on the SDS, including impurities and stabilizing additives. Includes information on substances, mixtures, and all chemicals where a trade secret is claimed. Required information:

  • Substances
    • Chemical name
    • Common name and synonyms
    • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number and other unique identifiers
    • Impurities and stabilizing additives, which are themselves classified and which contribute to the classification of the chemical.

  • Mixtures
    • Same information required for substances.
    • The chemical name and concentration (i.e., exact percentage) of all ingredients that are classified as health hazards and are:
      >> Present above their cut-off/concentration limits or
      >> Present a health risk below the cut-off/concentration limits.
    • The concentration (exact percentages) of each ingredient must be specified except concentration ranges may be used in the following situations:
      >> A trade secret claim is made
      >> There is batch-to-batch variation, or
      >> The SDS is used for a group of substantially similar mixtures.

  • Chemicals where a trade secret is claimed
    • A statement that the specific chemical identity and/or exact percentage (concentration) of composition has been withheld as a trade secret is required.

Section 4.   First-Aid Measures
This section describes the initial care that should be given by untrained responders to an individual who has been exposed to the chemical. Required information:

  • Necessary first-aid instructions by relevant routes of exposure (inhalation, skin and eye contact, and ingestion).
  • Description of the most important symptoms or effects, and any symptoms that are acute or delayed.
  • Recommendations for immediate medical care and special treatment needed, when necessary.

Section 5.   Fire-Fighting Measures
This section provides recommendations for fighting a fire caused by the chemical. Required information:

  • Recommendations of suitable extinguishing equipment, and information about extinguishing equipment that is not appropriate for a particular situation.
  • Advice on specific hazards that develop from the chemical during the fire, such as any hazardous combustion products created when the chemical burns.
  • Recommendations on special protective equipment or precautions for firefighters.

Section 6.   Accidental Release Measures
This section has recommendations on appropriate response to spills, leaks, or releases, including containment and cleanup practices to prevent or minimize exposure to people, properties, or the environment. Its recommendations may distinguish between responses for large and small spills where the spill volume has a significant impact on the hazard. Required information:

  • Use of personal precautions (such as removal of ignition sources or providing sufficient ventilation) and protective equipment to prevent the contamination of skin, eyes, and clothing.
  • Emergency procedures, including instructions for evacuations, consulting experts when needed, and appropriate protective clothing.
  • Methods and materials used for containment (e.g., covering the drains and capping procedures).
  • Cleanup procedures (e.g., appropriate techniques for neutralization, decontamination, cleaning or vacuuming; absorbent materials; and/or equipment required for containment/cleanup).

Section 7.   Handling and Storage
This section provides guidance on the safe handling practices and conditions for safe storage of chemicals. Required information:

  • Precautions for safe handling, including recommendations for handling incompatible chemicals, minimizing the release of the chemical into the environment, and providing advice on general hygiene practices (e.g., eating, drinking, and smoking in work areas is prohibited).
  • Recommendations on the conditions for safe storage, including any incompatibilities. Provide advice on specific storage requirements (e.g., ventilation requirements).

Section 8.   Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
This section indicates the exposure limits, engineering controls, and personal protective measures that can be used to minimize worker exposure. Required information:

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), and any other exposure limit used or recommended by the chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer preparing the safety data sheet, where available.
  • Appropriate engineering controls (e.g., use local exhaust ventilation, or use only in an enclosed system).
  • Recommendations for personal protective measures to prevent illness or injury from exposure to chemicals, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., appropriate types of eye, face, skin or respiratory protection needed based on hazards and potential exposure).
  • Any special requirements for PPE, protective clothing or respirators (e.g. type of glove material, such as PVC or nitrile rubber gloves; and breakthrough time of the glove material).

Section 9.   Physical and Chemical Properties
This section identifies physical and chemical properties associated with the substance or mixture. Required information:

  • Appearance (physical state, color, etc.)
  • Upper/lower flammability or explosive limits
  • Odor
  • pH
  • Relative density
  • Melting point/freezing point
  • Solubility(ies)
  • Initial boiling point and boiling range
  • Flash point
  • Evaporation rate
  • Flammability (solid, gas)
  • Upper/lower flammability or explosive limits
  • Vapor pressure
  • Vapor density
  • Partition coefficient: n-octanol/water
  • Auto-ignition temperature
  • Decomposition temperature
  • Viscosity

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.

Section 10.   Stability and Reactivity
This section describes the reactivity hazards of the chemical and the chemical stability information. This section is broken into three parts: Reactivity, Chemical Stability, and Other. Required information:

  • Reactivity
    • Description of the specific test data for the chemical(s).

  • Chemical Stability
    • Indication of whether the chemical is stable or unstable under normal ambient temperature and conditions while in storage and being handled.
    • Description of any stabilizers that may be needed to maintain chemical stability.
    • Indication of any safety issues that may arise should the product change in physical appearance.

  • Other
    • Indication of the possibility of hazardous reactions, including a statement whether the chemical will react or polymerize, which could release excess pressure or heat, or create other hazardous conditions. Also, a description of the conditions under which hazardous reactions may occur.
    • List of all conditions that should be avoided (e.g., static discharge, shock, vibrations, or environmental conditions that may lead to hazardous conditions).
    • List of all classes of incompatible materials (e.g., classes of chemicals or specific substances) with which the chemical could react to produce a hazardous situation.
    • List of any known or anticipated hazardous decomposition products that could be produced because of use, storage, or heating. (Hazardous combustion products should also be included in Section 5 (Fire-Fighting Measures) of the SDS.)

Section 11.   Health Effects
This section identifies toxicological and health effects information or indicates that such data are not available. Required information:

  • Information on the likely routes of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, skin and eye contact). The SDS should indicate if the information is unknown.
  • Description of the delayed, immediate, or chronic effects from short-term and long-term exposure.
  • The numerical measures of toxicity
  • Description of the symptoms. This description includes the symptoms associated with exposure to the chemical including symptoms from the lowest to the most severe exposure.
  • Indication of whether the chemical is listed in the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (latest edition) or has been found to be a potential carcinogen in the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs (latest editions) or found to be a potential carcinogen by OSHA.

Section 12.   Ecological Information (no enforcement by OSHA)
This section provides information to evaluate the environmental impact of the chemical(s) if it were released to the environment. Since other Agencies regulate this information, OSHA will not be enforcing this section.

Section 13.   Disposal Considerations (no enforcement by OSHA)
This section provides guidance on proper disposal practices, recycling or reclamation of the chemical(s) or its container, and safe handling practices. To minimize exposure, this section should also refer the reader to Section 8 (Exposure Controls/Personal Protection) of the SDS. Since other Agencies regulate this information, OSHA will not be enforcing this section.

Section 14.   Transport Information (no enforcement by OSHA)
This section provides guidance on classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous chemical(s) by road, air, rail, or sea. Since other Agencies regulate this information, OSHA will not be enforcing this section.

Section 15.   Regulatory Information (no enforcement by OSHA)
This section identifies the safety, health, and environmental regulations specific for the product that is not indicated anywhere else on the SDS. Since other Agencies regulate this information, OSHA will not be enforcing this section.

Section 16.   Other Information
This section indicates when the SDS was prepared or when the last known revision was made. The SDS may also state where the changes have been made to the previous version. You may wish to contact the supplier for an explanation of the changes. Other useful information also may be included here.

OSHA Requirements

Employers must maintain a complete and accurate SDS for each hazardous chemical that is used in the facility. They are entitled to obtain this information automatically upon purchase of the material. When new and significant information becomes available concerning a product's hazards or ways to protect against the hazards, chemical manufacturers, importers, or distributors must add it to their SDS within three months and provide it to their customers with the next shipment of the chemical. Employers must have a manufacturer-specific SDS for each hazardous chemical used in the workplace.

While SDS/s are not required to be physically attached to a shipment, they must accompany or precede the shipment. When the manufacturer/supplier fails to send an SDS with a shipment labeled as a hazardous chemical, the employer must obtain one from the chemical manufacturer, importer, or distributor as soon as possible. Similarly, if the SDS is incomplete or unclear, the employer should contact the manufacturer or importer to get clarification or obtain missing information.

When an employer is unable to obtain an SDS from a supplier or manufacturer, he/she should submit a written complaint, with complete background information, to the nearest OSHA area office. OSHA will then call and send a certified letter to the supplier or manufacturer to obtain the needed information. If the supplier or manufacturer still fails to respond within a reasonable time, OSHA will inspect the supplier or manufacturer and take appropriate enforcement action.

The Five Stages of OSU's Program

  Safety Data Sheets
NEXT  Labeling and Marking Systems
  Employee Training Sessions
  Written Right-to-Know Plan
  Chemical Inventory List

NOTE: The information contained in this training module is for awareness/informational purposes only. It is suitable for use as a tool in increasing the reader's awarenss of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard. However, it shall not be used, nor considered to be a replacement or substitute, for any training required by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.

At Oklahoma State University, the office of Environmental Health and Safety may be contacted to assist departments with their Hazard Communication and required training.

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Reviewed December 2012

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