A material safety data sheet (MSDS), safety data sheet (SDS), or product safety data sheet (PSDS) is an important component of product stewardship and occupational safety and health. It is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures. MSDS formats can vary from source to source within a country depending on national requirements.
SDSs are a widely done system for cataloging information on chemicals, chemical compounds, and chemical mixtures. SDS information may include instructions for the safe use and potential hazards associated with a particular material or product. These data sheets can be found anywhere where chemicals are being used.
There is also a duty to properly label substances on the basis of physico-chemical, health and/or environmental risk. Labels can include hazard symbols such as the European Union standard black diagonal cross on an orange background, used to denote a harmful substance.
An SDS for a substance is not primarily intended for use by the general consumer, focusing instead on the hazards of working with the material in an occupational setting.
In some jurisdictions, the SDS is required to state the chemical's risks, safety, and effect on the environment.
It is important to use an SDS specific to both country and supplier, as the same product (e.g. paints sold under identical brand names by the same company) can have different formulations in different countries. The formulation and hazard of a product using a generic name (e.g. sugar soap) may vary between manufacturers in the same country.
National and international requirements
In Canada, the program known as the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) establishes the requirements for MSDS's in workplaces and is administered federally by Health Canada under the Hazardous Products Act, Part II, and the Controlled Products Regulations. WHMIS and MSDS requirements are also enforced by provincial Ministries or Departments of Labour.
Safety data sheets have been made an integral part of the system of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 (REACH). The original requirements of REACH for SDSs have been further adapted to take into account the rules for safety data sheets of the Global Harmonised System (GHS) and the implementation of other elements of the GHS into EU legislation that were introduced by Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 (CLP) via an update to Annex II of REACH.
The SDS follows a 16 section format which is internationally agreed and for substances especially, the SDS should be followed with an Annex which contains the exposure scenarios of this particular substance. The SDS must be supplied in an official language of the Member State(s) where the substance or mixture is placed on the market, unless the Member State(s) concerned provide(s) otherwise (Article 31(5) of REACH).
The 16 sections are:
- SECTION 1: Identification of the substance/mixture and of the company/undertaking
- 1.1. Product identifier
- 1.2. Relevant identified uses of the substance or mixture and uses advised against
- 1.3. Details of the supplier of the safety data sheet
- 1.4. Emergency telephone number
- SECTION 2: Hazards identification
- 2.1. Classification of the substance or mixture
- 2.2. Label elements
- 2.3. Other hazards
- SECTION 3: Composition/information on ingredients
- 3.1. Substances
- 3.2. Mixtures
- SECTION 4: First aid measures
- 4.1. Description of first aid measures
- 4.2. Most important symptoms and effects, both acute and delayed
- 4.3. Indication of any immediate medical attention and special treatment needed
- SECTION 5: Firefighting measures
- 5.1. Extinguishing media
- 5.2. Special hazards arising from the substance or mixture
- 5.3. Advice for firefighters
- SECTION 6: Accidental release measures
- 6.1. Personal precautions, protective equipment and emergency procedures
- 6.2. Environmental precautions
- 6.3. Methods and material for containment and cleaning up
- 6.4. Reference to other sections
- SECTION 7: Handling and storage
- 7.1. Precautions for safe handling
- 7.2. Conditions for safe storage, including any incompatibilities
- 7.3. Specific end use(s)
- SECTION 8: Exposure controls/personal protection
- 8.1. Control parameters
- 8.2. Exposure controls
- SECTION 9: Physical and chemical properties
- 9.1. Information on basic physical and chemical properties
- 9.2. Other information
- SECTION 10: Stability and reactivity
- 10.1. Reactivity
- 10.2. Chemical stability
- 10.3. Possibility of hazardous reactions
- 10.4. Conditions to avoid
- 10.5. Incompatible materials
- 10.6. Hazardous decomposition products
- SECTION 11: Toxicological information
- 11.1. Information on toxicological effects
- SECTION 12: Ecological information
- 12.1. Toxicity
- 12.2. Persistence and degradability
- 12.3. Bioaccumulative potential
- 12.4. Mobility in soil
- 12.5. Results of PBT and vPvB assessment
- 12.6. Other adverse effects
- SECTION 13: Disposal considerations
- 13.1. Waste treatment methods
- SECTION 14: Transport information
- 14.1. UN number
- 14.2. UN proper shipping name
- 14.3. Transport hazard class(es)
- 14.4. Packing group
- 14.5. Environmental hazards
- 14.6. Special precautions for user
- 14.7. Transport in bulk according to Annex II of MARPOL73/78 and the IBC Code
- SECTION 15: Regulatory information
- 15.1. Safety, health and environmental regulations/legislation specific for the substance or mixture
- 15.2. Chemical safety assessment
- SECTION 16: Other information
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published a guidance document on the compilation of safety data sheets.
The German Federal Water Management Act requires that substances be evaluated for negative influence on the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of water. These are classified into numeric water hazard classes (WGK or WHC depending whether you use the German or English abbreviation).
- WGK nwg: Non-water polluting substance
- WGK 1: Slightly water polluting substance
- WGK 2: Water polluting substance
- WGK 3: Highly water polluting substance
Dutch Safety Data Sheets are well known as veiligheidsinformatieblad nl:Veiligheidsinformatieblad or Chemiekaarten. This is a collection of Safety Data Sheets of the most widely used chemicals. The Chemiekaarten boek is commercially available, but also made available through educational institutes, such as the web site offered by the university of Groningen
In the U.K., the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002 - known as CHIP Regulations - impose duties upon suppliers, and importers into the EU, of hazardous materials.
NOTE: Safety data sheets (SDS) are no longer covered by the CHIP regulations. The laws that require a SDS to be provided have been transferred to the European REACH Regulations. http://www.hse.gov.uk/chip/
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations govern the use of hazardous substances in the workplace in the UK and specifically require an assessment of the use of a substance. Regulation 12 requires that an employer provides employees with information, instruction and training for people exposed to hazardous substances. This duty would be very nearly impossible without the data sheet as a starting point. It is important for employers therefore to insist on receiving a data sheet from a supplier of a substance.
The duty to supply information is not confined to informing only business users of products. MSDSs for retail products sold by large DIY shops are usually obtainable on those companies' web sites.
Web sites of manufacturers and large suppliers do not always include them even if the information is obtainable from retailers but written or telephone requests for paper copies will usually be responded to favourably.
In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that MSDSs be available to employees for potentially harmful substances handled in the workplace under the Hazard Communication regulation. The MSDS is also required to be made available to local fire departments and local and state emergency planning officials under Section 311 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The American Chemical Society defines Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Numbers (CAS numbers) which provide a unique number for each chemical and are also used internationally in MSDSs.
Reviews of material safety data sheets by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board have detected dangerous deficiencies.
The board’s Combustible Dust Hazard Study analyzed 140 data sheets of substances capable of producing combustible dusts. None of the MSDSs contained all the information the board said was needed to work with the material safely, and 41 percent failed to even mention that the substance was combustible.
As part of its study of an explosion and fire that destroyed the Barton Solvents facility in Valley Center, Kansas, in 2007, the safety board reviewed 62 material safety data sheets for commonly used nonconductive flammable liquids. As in the combustible dust study, the board found all the data sheets inadequate.
Many companies offer the service of collecting, or writing and revising, data sheets to ensure they are up to date and available for their subscribers or users. Some jurisdictions impose an explicit duty of care that each SDS be regularly updated, usually every three to five years.
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
- Fact sheet
- Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
- International Chemical Safety Card
- Materials database
- Msdsonline (requires subscription)
- Risk and Safety Statements
- UK Health and Safety Executive
- MSDS Glossary