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What is on a Safety Data Sheet

By Ajoy Gonsalves

In the realm of occupational safety, one document stands tall above the rest: the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). But what information is on a safety data sheet? An SDS is an essential document that contains critical information about hazardous substances, their risks, and guidance on safety precautions. It is a global system adopted to communicate the dangers of chemicals. These documents follow a standard format, making them recognisable and easily understandable regardless of where you are in the world.

Safety Data Sheets are necessary for all businesses where workers might be exposed to chemical hazards. From industrial manufacturing to scientific research, SDSs are the primary source of knowledge about the safe handling, storage, and disposal of dangerous substances. Without these documents, workers would be at risk of exposure to potentially harmful substances without understanding the risks involved.

As a society, we have moved away from reliance on word-of-mouth or loosely interpreted instructions to a more systematic and rigorous approach to safety. Safety Data Sheets are a manifestation of this shift, providing detailed, accurate, and reliable information that empowers workers to protect themselves and their environment.

Importance of Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets are not just critical for the safety of employees; they also play a vital role in the broader context of environmental protection. These documents provide crucial information needed to handle chemical substances responsibly, preventing their improper disposal and consequential environmental harm.

Moreover, SDSs serve as an effective communication tool between chemical manufacturers, suppliers, and end-users. By ensuring everyone has access to the same detailed information about a substance, SDSs help maintain a high standard of safety across the entire supply chain. This transparency is integral to reducing workplace accidents and creating a culture of safety awareness.

Finally, Safety Data Sheets are a legal requirement in many countries, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Businesses are obligated to provide SDSs for any hazardous substances they produce or import. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in significant fines and penalties. Thus, understanding what information is required on a safety data sheet is not only a safety concern but also a legal one.

Understanding the Information on a Safety Data Sheet

Safety Data Sheets are structured documents, divided into sixteen sections that each cover a specific aspect of safety information. This format simplifies the process of finding specific details about a substance. However, the information they contain can be complex and technical. Therefore, it's essential to understand how to read and interpret this data effectively.

The first sections of an SDS provide general information about the substance, including its identity, the manufacturer's details, and emergency contact information. Subsequent sections cover the hazards of the substance, the necessary precautions during handling and storage, and the measures to take in case of accidental release or exposure.

Towards the end, the SDS provides technical and scientific information, like the substance's physical and chemical properties, stability, and reactivity. The final sections cover regulatory information and other details like the date of the last revision. By understanding what information is given on a Safety Data Sheet, users can navigate these documents more effectively.

Key Sections of a Safety Data Sheet

While all sixteen sections of an SDS are important, some are particularly crucial for workers handling the substance. Section Two, for example, outlines the hazards associated with the substance, including its classification and labeling information. This section is vital for understanding what risks the substance poses and how to identify it correctly.

Section Eight is another key section, providing details about exposure controls and personal protection. It gives recommended measures to minimise exposure to the substance, such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). This information is crucial for workers handling the substance on a regular basis.

Finally, Section Sixteen, although often overlooked, provides additional information not covered in the previous sections. This could include training advice, further details on the substance's hazards, or information about its safe disposal.

Information Required on a Safety Data Sheet

An SDS must provide certain specific details to be compliant with international regulations. This includes the substance's identification, the manufacturer's contact details, and precise information about the substance's hazards. It must also include detailed instructions on handling and storing the substance, measures to take in emergencies, and exposure control recommendations.

In addition, an SDS must provide technical data about the substance, such as its physical and chemical properties, its stability, and its reactivity. It should also include toxicological and ecological information, details on disposal considerations, and transport information.

Regulatory information is also required, detailing any safety, health, and environmental regulations specific to the substance. Finally, the SDS must include the date it was last revised. Each of these elements is crucial in understanding what is found on a Safety Data Sheet.

How to Read and Interpret a Safety Data Sheet

Reading and interpreting an SDS effectively requires understanding its structure and the significance of the information it contains. Start by identifying the substance and the manufacturer's details in the first section. Then, review the hazard identification section to understand the risks associated with the substance.

Pay particular attention to the sections on handling and storage, exposure controls, and personal protection. These provide vital information on how to safely handle the substance, what protective equipment to use, and what to do in case of accidental exposure.

Finally, review the technical and regulatory information to understand the substance's properties and any specific regulations that apply to it. Keep in mind that the information on an SDS is technical and scientific in nature. If you're unsure about anything, don't hesitate to ask a supervisor or safety professional for clarification.

What Information is Given on a Safety Data Sheet?

A Safety Data Sheet provides comprehensive information about a hazardous substance. This includes the substance's identification, the hazards it presents, and the precautions to take when handling it. It also provides information on the substance's physical and chemical properties, its stability, and reactivity.

An SDS also includes detailed instructions on what to do in case of an emergency, like accidental release or exposure. This information is essential for ensuring the safety of employees and the environment.

Additionally, an SDS provides regulatory information, detailing any safety, health, and environmental regulations that apply to the substance. It's important for businesses to understand these regulations to ensure compliance and avoid potential penalties.

Common Items Found on a Safety Data Sheet

Common items found on an SDS include the substance's name, its synonyms, and its Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number. The CAS number is a unique identifier assigned to every chemical substance described in open scientific literature.

Other items include the substance's hazard classification, signal word, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and pictograms. These provide a quick overview of the substance's hazards and the precautions to take when handling it.

An SDS also includes information on first-aid measures, firefighting measures, accidental release measures, handling and storage recommendations, and exposure control measures. It also details the substance's physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity, toxicological information, ecological information, disposal considerations, transport information, and regulatory information.

The Role of Safety Data Sheets in Workplace Safety

SDSs play a crucial role in workplace safety. They are the primary source of information for workers and employers to understand the hazards of the substances they work with and how to protect themselves.

By providing detailed information on the substance's hazards, necessary precautions, and measures to take in emergencies, SDSs empower workers to handle substances safely and respond effectively to accidents. They also provide crucial information for employers to develop effective safety procedures and training programs.

Moreover, SDSs contribute to a culture of safety awareness in the workplace. By making this information accessible to all workers, they promote a shared responsibility for safety and encourage everyone to be proactive in protecting themselves and their colleagues.


Q: What is a Safety Data Sheet? A: A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a document that provides detailed information about a hazardous substance, including its hazards, handling and storage precautions, and emergency procedures.

Q: Who needs to use Safety Data Sheets? A: All businesses where workers might be exposed to hazardous substances need to use Safety Data Sheets. This includes industries like manufacturing, construction, and scientific research.

Q: Where can I find Safety Data Sheets? A: Safety Data Sheets are usually provided by the manufacturer or supplier of a hazardous substance. They can also be found online on the manufacturer's website.


Safety Data Sheets are a cornerstone of workplace safety, providing crucial information for workers and employers to handle hazardous substances safely. Understanding what information is found on a safety data sheet is not just a legal requirement; it's a vital part of ensuring the safety of employees and the environment.

At Capptions, we understand the importance of safety compliance. Our Safety and Compliance Software can help your business manage Safety Data Sheets effectively, ensuring you have all the information you need at your fingertips. Contact us today to learn more.