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How To Read a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

A safety data sheet—or SDS—is a document prepared by chemical manufacturers for any chemical which presents a hazard to health and safety. A safety data sheet includes information about each chemical, covering the physical and environmental hazards, precautions for safe handling, storage, and transportation of the chemical, and more.

There are 16 sections in a safety data sheet. Let’s walk through each one:

  • Section 1 identifies the chemical on the SDS as well as its intended use. It also provides the essential contact information of the supplier.
  • Section 2 outlines the hazards of the chemical and appropriate warning information.
  • Section 3 identifies the ingredient(s) of the chemical product identified on the SDS, including impurities and stabilizing additives.
  • Section 4 of the safety data sheet describes the initial treatment protocol for untrained responders to incidents of chemical exposure.
  • Section 5 provides recommendations for fighting a fire caused by the chemical.
  • Section 6 details the appropriate response to chemical spills, leaks, or releases, including containment, and cleanup to prevent or minimize exposure to people, property, or the environment.
  • Section 7 of the safety data sheet provides guidance on the safe handling practices and conditions for safe storage of chemicals.
  • Section 8 list chemical exposure limits, engineering controls, and personal protective measures that can be used to minimize worker exposure.
  • Section 9 identifies physical and chemical properties associated with the product.
  • Section 10 describes the reactivity hazards of the chemical and chemical stability information. This section is broken into three parts: reactivity, chemical stability, and other.
  • Section 11 identifies toxicological and health effects info, if applicable
  • Section 12 explains the environmental impact of a chemical(s) if released to the environment.
  • Section 13 covers proper disposal, recycling or reclamation of the chemical(s) or its container, and safe handling practices.
  • Section 14 explains classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous chemical(s) by road, air, rail, or sea.
  • Section 15 of the safety data sheet identifies the safety, health, and environmental regulations specific to the product.
  • Section 16 tells you when the SDS was originally prepared or the last known revision date. This section of the SDS may also state where changes have been made to the previous version.

Keep in mind that some Safety data sheets may be 15 pages or more! Depending on the complexity of the chemical or substances therein, each section may have multiple descriptive fields with additional detail, providing different levels of information.

So that’s how to read a Safety Data Sheet.

Until next time, stay positive and stay safe.