The Guide to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

The MSDS and SDS terms

For decades, MSDS has been the most extended term to refer to Material Safety Data Sheets. MSDS are documents that travel with or ahead of Dangerous Goods shipments that have hazardous chemicals. These documents warn users of the specific dangers of such products and providing guidance on their safe handling, storage and disposal.

A few years ago, those countries that adopted (or are still adopting) the GHS (Globally Harmonized System) are aligned with internationally-developed guidelines for hazardous substances. A key fact introduced by the GHS is the safety date sheet rename from MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) to simply SDS (Safety Data Sheets) and its standardized structure (16 sections). However, despite the new terminology, MSDS is still very common.

To keep things simple, there is no need to maintain two safety date sheet libraries – one for MSDS and one for SDS. Normally this classification (and the basis of it) will be available in the form of a Safety Data Sheet. The SDS is the responsibility of the manufacturer and/or the importer of the goods, and should be made available upon request from the proper authorities. So basically, ship out an SDS with everyone of your Dangerous Goods shipments.

The SDS can be used as a source of information about hazards, composition/information on ingredients, and to obtain advice on safety precautions, chemical properties, first aid hazards and more valuable information of the product.

The SDS provides an important source of information for target audiences, so certain elements of information may be used by those involved with the transport of dangerous goods, emergency responders, those involved in the professional use of pesticides and consumers among others.

The 16 Sections of the SDS

All SDS’s should have 16 sections. If you find less, you should ask the provider for a complete version.

The 16 sections of the SDS contain information for identification, composition of the chemical(s), first aid, fire fighting info, handling/storage, and much more. All of this information is important to manufacturers, couriers, storage facilities, and who ever else is in contact with the dangerous goods.

The information contained in an SDS is divided into 16 sections as follows:

  • Section 1: Identification of the substance and of the company/undertaking
  • Section 2: Hazards identification
  • Section 3: Composition/information
  • Section 4: First aid measures
  • Section 5: Firefighting measures
  • Section 6: Accidental release measures
  • Section 7: Handling and storage
  • Section 8: Exposure controls/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: Other information

For a more detailed description of all the 16 sections of the SDS, head over to OSHA’s website to learn more.

For Dangerous Goods transportation purposes, the most relevant section is Section 14, Transport information. This section of the SDS provides basic classification information for the transportation and shipment of substances or mixtures mentioned under Section 1 by the different modes of transportation. It lists the UN number, Proper Shipping Name, hazard class (primary and/or subsidiary) or divisions, and packing group.