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How to read a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)


How to read a Safety Data Sheet.pdf











SDS content and regulations

Manufacturers and suppliers allocate substantial budgets for issuing and regular updating of safety data sheets on millions of products. On the other side, their customers must maintain easily accessible comprehensive libraries of up-to-date SDSs for all hazardous chemicals they possess. Governments create special agencies, which control and regulate SDS circulation process and issue large fines for violations. All these efforts demonstrate the significance of SDS documents as a source of vital safety and hazard information for any person interacting with chemicals.

SDS document format

The content of Safety Data Sheets must be in full compliance with national regulations. Most countries adopted Globally Harmonized System (GHS) format of Safety Data Sheets, which was developed by the United Nations organization. Such global standardization made SDSs look very similar in different countries. There are 16 sections in a GHS format Safety Data Sheet, which contain vital information on chemical hazards, properties, and handling instructions.

SDS Document Sections:

SECTION 1. Identification

SECTION 2. Hazard(s) identification

SECTION 3. Composition/information on ingredients

SECTION 4. First-aid measures

SECTION 5. Fire-fighting 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

Section 1 provides the name of the product and the supplier’s contact information, including emergency phone number.

Section 2 is the most important section, which provides summary of all hazards associated with the chemical. Special pictograms are used in this section to broadly identify typical hazards. All broad hazards are divided into specific categories, which are further ranked according to their severity (Category 1, 2, 3 etc.) with Category 1 chemicals considered the most dangerous.

Section 3 provides detailed information on composition of the product, which includes CAS numbers and concentration of all ingredients.

Sections 4-5 provide instructions for corresponding hazardous scenarios involving the product. It is usually recommended to consult a physician in case of exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Sections 7 and 8 provide important instructions on how to use the product safely with all recommended personal protection equipment.

Sections 9-12 provide detailed information on different properties of the product, including toxicity data. This information is used to determine all the main hazards associated with the product.

It is highly important to dispose the product appropriately. All disposal instructions can be found in Section 13. It is usually recommended to use a professional waste disposal service.

Sections 14-16 provide regulatory information on transportation and the contents of SDS.

Safety Data Sheet

Hazard Identification Summary

(As described in Section 2. Hazard(s) Identification)



Signal word WARNING is used for the less severe hazards. Signal word DANGER is used for the more severe hazards

Hazard Statements

Standard hazard statements with corresponding H-code are used to describe the hazard(s) of a product:

H2xx: Physical hazards (For example, H220: Extremely flammable gas)
H3xx: Health hazards (For example, H303: May be harmful if swallowed)
H4xx: Environmental hazards (For example, H411: Toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects)

Precautionary Statements

Standard precautionary statements with corresponding P-code are used to describe recommended measures to minimize or prevent adverse effects:

P1xx: General precautionary statement (For example, P102: Keep out of reach of children)
P2xx: Prevention precautionary statement (For example, P222: Do not allow contact with air)
P3xx: Response precautionary statement (For example, P315: Get immediate medical advice/attention)
P4xx: Storage precautionary statement (For example, P410: Protect from sunlight)
P5xx: Disposal precautionary statement (For example, P501: Dispose of contents/container to)

NFPA and HMIS Chemical Hazard Ranking Labels

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) labels are used for simple visual illustration of relative chemical hazards on a 0-4 ranking scale (0 = low hazard to 4 = high hazard)