Kevin Ian Schmidt

How to Read an SDS Sheet

The Hazard Communication Standard of 2012 requires chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly MSDSs or Material Safety Data Sheets) for each hazardous chemical to downstream users to communicate information on these hazards. SDSs are required to be presented in a consistent user-friendly, 16-section format. We will discuss this format in this module.

The SDS includes information such as:

  • the properties of each chemical;
  • the physical, health, and environmental health hazards;
  • protective measures; and
  • safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical.

The information contained in the SDS must be in English (although it may be in other languages as well). OSHA requires that SDS preparers provide specific minimum information as detailed in Appendix D of 29 CFR 1910.1200. The SDS preparers may also include additional information in various section(s). Employers must ensure that SDSs are readily accessible to employees.

SDS Form Explained

The HCS 2012 requires new SDSs to be in a uniform format, and include the section numbers, the headings, and associated information under the headings below.

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

  • 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 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. The required information consists of:

  • hazard classification of the chemical (e.g., flammable liquid, category 1)
  • signal word, pictograms
  • hazard statement(s), precautionary statement(s)
  • description of any hazards not otherwise classified

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. This section includes information on substances, mixtures, and all chemicals where a trade secret is claimed. The required information consists of:

  • 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; chemical name and concentration (i.e., exact percentage) of all ingredients which are classified as health hazards and are present above their cut-off/concentration limits or a health risk below the cut-off/concentration limits. The concentration (exact percentages) of each ingredient.
  • 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.
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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. The required information consists of:

  • 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. The required information consists of:

  • 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 provides recommendations on the appropriate response to spills, leaks, or releases, including containment and cleanup practices to prevent or minimize exposure to people, properties, or the environment. The required information may consist of recommendations for:

  • Use of personal precautions 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.
  • Cleanup procedures.

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

  • 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.
  • 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. The required information consists of:

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), and any other exposure limits
  • appropriate engineering controls
  • recommendations for personal protective measures to prevent illness or injury from exposure to chemicals, such as personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • any special requirements for PPE, protective clothing or respirators

Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties – This section identifies physical and chemical properties associated with the substance or mixture. The minimum required information consists of:

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

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. The required information consists of:

  • Reactivity – Description of the specific test data for the chemical(s).
  • Chemical stability – Indication of whether the chemical is stable or unstable under normal temperature and conditions. Description of any stabilizers. Indication of any safety issues should the product change in physical appearance.
  • Other – Indication of the possibility of hazardous reactions and conditions under which hazardous reactions may occur. List of all conditions that should be avoided. List of all classes of incompatible materials. List of any known or anticipated hazardous decomposition products.

Section 11: Toxicological Information – This section identifies toxicological and health effects information or indicates that such data are not available. The required information consists of:

  • Information on the likely routes of exposure. The SDS should indicate if the information is unknown.
  • Description of the delayed, immediate, or chronic effects from short- and long-term exposure.
  • The numerical measures of toxicity – the estimated amount of a substance expected to kill 50% of test animals in a single dose (LD50).
  • 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 a potential carcinogen.

Sections 12-15 – Note: Since other Agencies regulate this information, OSHA does not enforce Sections 12 through 15.

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.

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