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Environmental Health and Safety, University of Colorado Denver

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

SDS Sheets and the Global Harmonization System (GHS)

3 GHS symbols

​On March 20th, 2012, OSHA announced that it was adopting the Global Harmonization System (GHS) to address growing international trade, different classifications of identical products, and requirements for an international safety standard.  As a result of this action, the OSHA hazcom standard, material safety data sheets, and container labeling requirements will be modified over the coming years to fully comply with the GHS standards. 

Under GHS the material safety data sheet (MSDS) will be replaced by the safety data sheet (SDS) and the exclusive use of the SDS will begin on June 1, 2015.  Some of the new changes on the SDS will include the use of the following GHS elements:

  • 9 pictograms that visually describe the hazards presented by the chemicals
  • 2 signal words (danger and warning) that describe the hazards presented by the chemicals
  • 72 individual and 17 combined precautionary statements 
A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is designed to provide workers with information regarding the hazards associated with chemical products and recommended precautions for safe handling and storage. SDSs include information such as trade names, chemical composition, physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point etc.), health effects, recommended protective equipment, first aid measures, conditions to avoid, and in some cases disposal and spill procedures.
Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that their employees have access to SDSs for all hazardous chemicals used in the workplace or laboratory. An SDS for each material students and workers will use must be readily accessible.  Access to SDSs can be electronically or in hard copy, but if electronic — the employee must have easy access to a computer and know how and where to obtain the proper SDS.
If an employee or student has an accident involving exposure to a hazardous material, try to take a copy of the SDS to the health care provider to let them know the hazards of the chemical and any recommended medical treatment.
The safety data sheet follows a 16 section format that includes the following sections:
  1. Identification;
  2. Hazard identification;
  3. Composition/information on ingredients;
  4. First-aid measures;
  5. Fire-fighting measures;
  6. Accidental release measures;
  7. Handling and storage;
  8. Exposure controls/personal protection;
  9. Physical and chemical properties;
  10. Stability and reactivity;
  11. Toxicological information;
  12. Ecological information;
  13. Disposal considerations;
  14. Transportation information;
  15. Regulatory information;
  16. Other information

Click here for actual regulations and other guidance put together by the US Department of Labor.


​Section 1: Identification

 This section identifies the chemical  and provides the name of the supplier, recommended uses, and detail contact information about the supplier including emergency contact information.

Section 2: Hazard Identification

 This section identifies the hazards and appropriate warning information such as:

  • signal words
  • hazard statements, and
  • precautionary statement(s) associated with those hazards.

Click here for a list showing how signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, and precautionary statements come together for each hazard class.

Section 3: Composition/Information on Ingredients

This section identifies the ingredients that make up the chemical including impurities and stabilizing additives which are themselves classified and which contribute to the classification of the chemical.

Section 4: First-Aid Measures

 This section describes the initial care that can be given by an untrained responder without the use of sophisticated equipment or wide selection of medications.  If medical attention is required the instructions should state this, including its urgency.

​Section 5: Fire-Fighting Measures

 This section covers the requirements for fighting a fire caused by the chemical or arising in its vicinity.

Section 6: Accidental Release Measures

 This section recommends the appropriate response to spills, leaks, or releases in order to prevent or minimize the adverse effects on people, property, and the environment from the chemical.

Section 7: Handling and Storage

 This section provides guidance on the safe handling practices that minimize the potential hazards to people, property, and the environment from the chemical.

Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection

 This section gives recommendations regarding appropriate engineering controls and individual protection measures such as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties

 This section provides empirical data about the chemical in question to include (when available): appearance, odor, odor threshold, pH, melting/freezing point, initial boiling point and boiling range, flash point, evaporation rate, flammability, upper/lower flammability or explosive limits, vapor pressure, vapor density, relative density, solubilities, octanol-water partition coefficient, auto-ignition temperature, decomposition temperature, and viscosity.

Section 10: Stability and Reactivity

 This section describes reactivity hazards of the chemical and also indicates if the chemical is stable or unstable under normal ambient and anticipated storage and handling conditions of temperature and pressure.  This section also describes: a) any stabilizers which may need to be used to maintain product stability, b) conditions that would create a hazard, c) conditions to avoid.  Also covered under this section are a list of chemical classes that may react with the material to produce a hazardous situation and known or reasonably anticipated hazardous decomposition products.

​Section 11: Toxicological Information

This section is meant primarily for medical professionals and gives a comprehensive description of the various toxicological effects and the available data used to identify those effects.  Relevant hazards for which data should be provided are: acute toxicity, skin corrosion/irritation, serious eye damage/irritation, respiratory or skin sensitization, germ cell mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, STOT-single exposure, STOT-repeated exposure, and aspiration hazards.  Information should be provided regarding likely routes and symptoms of exposure including delayed and immediate effects as well as chronic effects from short and long term exposure.

 Section 12: Ecological Information

 This section provides information to evaluate the environmental impact of the chemical if it is released to the environment including toxicity data from tests performed on aquatic and/or terrestrial organisms.  Test results relevant to assess persistence and degradability are given when available.  Bioaccumulative potential, mobility in soil, and other adverse effects to the environment such as environmental fate, ozone depletion potential, photochemical ozone creation potential, endocrine  disrupting potential and/or global warming potential are included when available.

Section 13: Disposal Considerations

 This section provides information for proper disposal, recycling, or reclamation of the chemical to assist in the determination of safe and environmentally preferred waste management options.  This section will list sewage disposal and identify any special precautions for incineration and/or landfill as applicable.  Because restrictions and regulations differ from state to state and at the regional and municipal level, it is impairative to refer to local and state restrictions.  Questions regarding proper disposal should be addressed by the University Environmental Health and Safety Department at 303-724-0345.

Section 14: Transport Information

 This section provides basic classification information for the transporting/shipment of the chemical by road, rail, sea, or air.

Section 15: Regulatory Information

This section describes any other regulatory information on the chemical that is not otherwise provided elsewhere in the SDS.

Section 16: Other Information

 This section provides information relevant to the preparation of the SDS.  This should incorporate other information that does not belong in sections 1 through 15 of the SDS including information on the preparation and revision of the SDS such as the date of the preparation or last revision of the SDS, a key/legend to the abbreviations and acronyms used in the SDS, and key literature references and sources of data used to compile the SDS.

It is preferable that you obtain an SDS for your hazardous material from the actual manufacturer of the product you are using. An SDS should be provided with the product shipment or be available online through the manufacturer. The following are Internet accessible and searchable databases with SDS for multiple manufacturers. Do not rely on an SDS that is older than five years.
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