What is a Safety Data Sheet

Certificate IV in Security Management

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a document that provides detailed information about a hazardous chemical, including:

  • the identity of the chemical product and its ingredients
  • the hazards of the chemical including health hazards, physical hazards and environmental hazards
  • physical properties of the chemical, like boiling point, flash point and incompatibilities with other chemicals
  • workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants
  • safe handling and storage procedures for the chemical
  • what to do in the event of an emergency or spill
  • first aid information
  • transport information. 

Why should I read the SDS?

The SDS is a key information resource for workers and persons conducting a business or undertaking in managing the risks of a hazardous chemical in the workplace. It is important that workers read the SDS carefully and understand its contents before working with a hazardous chemical so that it can be safely stored, handled or used in the workplace.

Not all information about the hazards of a chemical or instructions for safe storage, handling and use may be provided on labels. In most cases, the SDS will contain much more information about a hazardous chemical than appears on the label. The SDS can be used to assist in assessing specific risks associated with a chemical and in training workers on how to use a chemical safely.

Format of a Safety Data Sheet

The information in an SDS is arranged under 16 headings to allow relevant information to be easily located by the person using the chemical.

An SDS has 16 sections that include: 

  •  Section 1—Identification: product identifier and chemical identity
  • Section 2—Hazard(s) identification
  • Section 3—Composition and information on ingredients
  • Section 4—First-aid measures
  • Section 5—Firefighting measures
  • Section 6—Accidental release measures
  • Section 7—Handling and storage, including how the chemical may be safely used
  • Section 8—Exposure controls and personal protection
  • Section 9—Physical and chemical properties
  • Section 10—Stability and reactivity
  • Section 11—Toxicological information
  • Section 12—Ecological information
  • Section 13—Disposal considerations
  • Section 14—Transport information
  • Section 15—Regulatory information
  • Section 16—Any other relevant information.

Obtaining safety data sheets

SDS can be obtained by contacting the manufacturer, importer or supplier of a hazardous chemical. Many suppliers of SDS will make copies available on their websites. You can also contact them by phone and they will email you a copy. 

SDS must be supplied to a workplace: 

  • when the hazardous chemical is first supplied to the workplace
  • the first time a hazardous chemical is supplied after an SDS has been amended

Keeping copies of safety data sheets

Businesses must keep copies of SDS for chemicals they use and they must be readily accessible for all workers involved in using, handling or storing the chemical at the workplace, emergency service workers, and anyone else who may be exposed to the chemical.

 The regulations do not require businesses to obtain and give access to SDS when:

  • Hazardous chemicals are in transit.
  • The business is a retailer and the hazardous chemical is a consumer product and intended for supply and not to be opened on the premises.
  • The hazardous chemical product is a consumer product used in quantities and a manner that is consistent with household use.

 However, in these circumstances, businesses must still make sure that sufficient information and instruction is provided to workers and this may involve having accessible SDS.

Household Quantities

Chemicals which are generally for domestic use and considered safe in the home may present greater risks in the workplace depending on the manner and quantities in which they are used. This is particularly relevant, for example, where domestic cleaning chemicals are purchased from a supermarket and used in a workplace environment. You should always follow label directions. However, if you are using a domestic chemical in a manner different from normal household use, you should also obtain the SDS in order to determine the level of risks to workers and the appropriate controls. The SDS should contain more detailed information on hazards and risks, for example on incompatibilities with other chemicals and risks from use in enclosed areas.

Paper versus electronic

Safety data sheets can be kept in a paper form or electronically. The critical consideration is the type of workforce you have and the ability to access the safety datasheets when required. For example, if the workforce has unlimited access to online resources then electronically may be appropriate. If the majority of the workforce doesn’t have online access, then manual copies stored in easy to access folders that are easily identifiable may be more appropriate. 

 For further information go to the following: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/understanding_sds_fact_sheet.pdf

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