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Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

What are safety data sheets (SDS)?

To avoid confusion, OSHA requires safety data sheets, commonly referred to by their acronym – SDS, to provide relevant information regarding the classification and labeling of various chemicals. For each specific chemical, there is a separate safety data sheet to accompany it. No more guessing what’s in the tube, what’s in the bottle – a game that is time-consuming and dangerous (particularly in healthcare). Information contained in safety data sheets includes the following:

    • Chemical properties

    • Health hazards

    • Physical hazards

    • Environmental hazards

    • Protective measures

    • Safety cautions for handling the chemical

    • Safety cautions for transporting the chemical

    • Safety cautions for storing the chemical


Additionally, safety data sheets give instructions regarding the following processes:

    • First aid

    • Fire fighting measures

    • Personal protective equipment

    • Chemical clean-up


There are sixteen standardized sections in every safety data sheet: identification, hazard(s) identification, composition/information on ingredients, first-aid measures, fire-fighting measures, accidental release measures, handling and storage, exposure controls/personal protection, physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity, toxicological information, ecological information, disposal considerations, transport information, regulatory information, and other information. 


How are safety data sheets (SDS) used?

Safety data sheets are used by any person who handles chemicals in the workplace. To use a safety data sheet, you read the section regarding the information or process for the chemical in question. In fact, it is required that safety data sheets be readily available to any employee working with chemicals during the work shift. Safety data sheets are commonly found in shops, facilities, or labs where chemicals are used regularly. 


How do you obtain a SDS?

It is common for a safety data sheet to be supplied by the manufacturer of the chemical. Often, safety data sheets (either a paper copy or email attachment) are supplied with the chemical order. If the safety data sheets are not supplied with the chemical order, all one has to do is request a copy of the safety data sheet from the manufacturer or download the safety data sheet from the manufacturer’s website. 


How do you update and maintain SDS?

It is typical for the manufacturer of the chemical to regularly update and maintain their provided safety data sheets. It is important to note that in the United States, it is the responsibility of the employers, distributors, importers, and manufacturers to update the safety data sheet within three months if any information of great importance regarding a specific chemical emerges. Such information might include new risk management measures, new exposure limits, new hazards, or even new classification. Chemical labels are to be amended within six months. It is very important to maintain safety data sheets for every chemical in the workplace. There are two ways to maintain safety data sheets: electronically or on paper. There is now software available to aid in the process of writing safety data sheets, managing the safety data sheets, and maintaining the collection of safety data sheets. An example would be ChemWatch. This database not only maintains safety data sheets but also updates them as needed. If such software is not available, safety data sheets can be maintained on paper. 


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