Safety Data Sheets

What’s in a safety data sheet?

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are required under the UK REACH and the GB CLP Regulations.

They 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 handling, storage, and emergency measures in case of accident.

REMEMBER: A SDS is not a risk assessment. You should use the information they contain to help make an assessment.

The information provided in a SDS should be presented under the following sixteen headings:

1. Identification.

Gives basic identification information about the substance including common names for the chemical, recommended use of the chemical and restrictions on use, supplier details and emergency contact details.

2. Hazard(s) identification.

Outlines the risks associated with the chemical substance with the use of hazard classifications, hazard statements, precautionary statements, signal words and hazard pictograms. The pictograms provide a visual reinforcement of the hazard, which fall under three categories: physical, environmental and health.

Hazard statementHazardExamples
H200 seriesPhysicalH221 Flammable gas
H223 Flammable aerosol
H228 Flammable solid
H300 seriesHealthH300 Fatal if swallowed
H301 Toxic if swallowed
H302 Harmful if swallowed
H400 seriesEnvironmentalH400 Very toxic to aquatic life
H402 Harmful to aquatic life
Safety Data Sheets
Precautionary statementPrecautionary measurementExamples
P100 seriesGeneralP102 Keep out of reach of children.
P200 seriesPreventionP210 Keep away from heat/sparks/open flames/hot surfaces. No smoking.
P300 seriesResponseP331 DO NOT induce vomiting.
P400 seriesStorageP402 Store in a dry place.
P500 seriesDisposalP502 Refer to manufacturer/supplier for information on recovery/recycling.

3. Composition/information on ingredients.

Hazardous ingredients and their concentrations are contained in this section. To achieve a certain level of product confidentiality the supplier tends to disclose percentage ranges rather than exact percentages of their chemical formulations i.e., Diethylene 5 – 10%

4. First-aid measures.

Provides a description of necessary first-aid measures needed relevant to the route of exposure, i.e., inhalation, skin and eye contact, and ingestion.

For example,

  • Inhalation: Move to fresh air. Call a physician if symptoms develop or persist.
  • Skin contact: Wash off with soap and water. Get medical attention if irritation develops and persists.
  • Eye contact: Rinse with water. Get medical attention if irritation develops and persists.
  • Ingestion: Rinse mouth. Get medical attention if symptoms occur.

It can impart detail regarding the most important symptoms/effects, acute and chronic, such as, exposure may cause temporary irritation, redness, or discomfort.

This section can also provide an indication of any immediate medical attention and/or special treatment that may be required.

5. Fire-fighting measures.

Depending on the substance, chemicals can often be at an increased risk of fire due to their composition or storage conditions. This section provides advice on how to tackle fires involving the chemical should the situation arise and any special hazards arising from the fire i.e., during the fire hazardous gases to health may be formed.

6. Accidental release measures.

Gives important information on what you should do if a spill or accidental release occurs when handling the chemical. It includes the type of PPE required, precautions that should be taken, emergency procedures to follow and clean up recommendations.

7. Handling and storage.

Outlines safe handling and storage practices to minimise exposure. Examples of the types of recommendations given include, “avoid prolonged exposure”, “observe good hygiene practices” and “store in original tightly closed container”.

8. Exposure controls/personal protection.

Offers guidance on control parameters, e.g., Workplace Exposure Limits or biological limit values.
It also provides recommendations on appropriate engineering controls such as the installation of local exhaust ventilation as well as specific PPE users should be wearing, such as safety gloves and respirators.

9. Physical and chemical properties.

Supplies a range of information on the chemical, including its appearance (physical state, colour, etc.), its odour, melting/freezing points, flash point and flammability.

10. Stability and reactivity.

Information in this section relates to the substance’s stability/volatility, such as conditions to avoid (e.g., static discharge, shock, or vibration). This is particularly important regarding the way in which it is transported.

11. Toxicological information.

Gives a detailed description of the various health affects you are likely to experience following exposure to the chemical through all the possible routes (inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact).

For example,

  • Inhalation: Prolonged inhalation may be harmful.
  • Skin contact: No adverse effects due to skin contact are expected.
  • Eye contact: Direct contact with eyes may cause temporary irritation.
  • Ingestion: May cause discomfort if swallowed. However, ingestion is not likely to be a primary route of occupational exposure.

12. Ecological information.

Outlines the effects the chemical has on the surrounding environment if it is released. Information regarding; ecotoxicity (aquatic and terrestrial), bio accumulative potential, as well as other adverse effects.

13. Disposal considerations.

Provides a description of waste residues and information on their safe handling and methods of disposal, including the disposal of any contaminated packaging.

14. Transport information.

The transport information section includes information that needs to be included on any shipping labels. These labels need to include UN numbers, proper shipping name, the transport hazard class, the packing group (if applicable) and any other special precautions that should be taken during transport.

15. Regulatory information.

Lists safety, health, and environmental regulations specific for the substance/mixture.

16. Other information.

The last section of the SDS includes information on the version history of the SDS and full definitions of abbreviations used throughout the SDS.

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