What are safety data sheets?

Safety data sheets (SDS) are informational documents that companies keep on hand for each potentially hazardous chemical in a facility. The information contained within a safety data sheet is standardized so that those reading it will be able to get accurate information about the chemical in question. SDS’s were made to comply with OSHA rules and regulations related to chemical safety.

Safety data sheets are also required for companies around the world that follow the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). The fact that many systems, including GHS and HazCom, require these documents illustrates just how effective they can be when it comes to providing information about chemicals.

What Requires a Safety Data Sheet?

Safety data sheets are required when there is a hazardous chemical in use, or in storage, at a facility. The chemical can be dangerous in that it can either cause a health hazard, or a physical hazard. The difference is:

  • Health Hazard – A chemical that can cause a health hazard is one that has a statistically significant risk of causing health problems. This could include carcinogens, toxic agents, reproductive toxins, skin irritants, corrosives, neurotoxins, and others.
  • Physical Hazards – Chemicals that have physical hazards associated with them would include those that can be explosive, flammable, an oxidizer, and more.

In most cases it is clear when a chemical has some type of danger associated with it. In addition, suppliers of chemicals will typically be able to alert buyers that a particular chemical will require a safety data sheet. In some cases, the SDS’s can even be provided with the chemicals itself since they are standardized and can typically be printed off from the internet or other locations.

What is Found on a Safety Data Sheet?

A safety data sheet is designed so that workers, safety managers, emergency responders, and others will have the necessary information to respond to an accident or injury related to some hazardous chemical. In the SDS will be details regarding the physical aspects of the chemical (flash point, freezing point, toxicity, etc), what type of first aid is to be administered to those who are exposed, and much more. There will also be instructions on what to do in the event that the chemical is spilled, or another incident occurs.

 

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