Safety Data Sheet SDS - what is it? ( formerly MSDS )

Update date:
23 Apr 2024
Date of publication:
23 Apr 2024
Reading time: 7 minutes

Table of contents:

The SDS Safety Data Sheet (formerly MSDS Material Safety Data Sheet) is a document containing information on the physical, chemical and toxicological properties of chemicals and how to deal with them when they come into contact with people and the environment. It applies to all substances and mixtures that are recognised as hazardous. It is a mandatory document in the European Union under the REACH Directive (Reg. 1907/2006/EC). The Safety Data Sheet for a chemical substance plays a key role in communicating relevant hazard data and risk management practices throughout the supply chain - from manufacturer to supplier to end user.

Products requiring a safety data sheet

Products requiring a safety data sheet are objects or substances that have a potential risk to human health and the environment. The requirement for a safety data sheet stems from the need to ensure adequate access to information about these products. With a safety data sheet, users, workers and relevant services can gain a full insight into the properties, composition and possible hazards of a product. This enables them to make informed decisions about use, storage and handling in the event of an accident or exposure. Products requiring a safety data sheet cover a wide range of substances, from industrial chemicals to medical and cosmetic materials. 

Products for which a safety data sheet is required include:

  • Substances and mixtures classified as hazardous according to the CLP Regulation.
  • Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB).
  • Substances on the candidate list of substances subject to authorisation.
  • Mixtures which, although not classified according to the CLP Regulation, require safety data sheets, according to specific cases explained in the guide issued by ECHA.

The safety data sheet must be provided free of charge in paper or electronic form in cases where:

  • The substance or mixture fulfils the criteria for classification with Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008.
  • The substance is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic or very persistent and very bioaccumulative according to the criteria in Annex XIII.
  • The substance is on the substance candidate list.

In addition, an SDS must be communicated to the recipients of the product in the case of a substance or mixture classified as hazardous according to the CLP Regulation, persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) products, and substances on the list established in accordance with Article 59(1).

What the safety data sheet should contain

The safety data sheet (SDS) is an important document that should contain key information on products that may pose a potential risk to human health and the environment. 

A safety data sheet (SDS) is a document precisely defined in Annex II of the REACH Regulation, which must contain well-defined sections. Each SDS consists of 16 sections and must include the date on which the document was drawn up and if updated, as well as the version number. The basic elements that should be included in a safety data sheet are listed below:

  1. Identification of the substance/mixture and of the company: This section contains the identification of the product, the uses of the substance or mixture and the details of the supplier of the safety data sheet.
  2. Hazards identification: Classification of the substance or mixture, labelling elements and other hazards.
  3. Composition/information on ingredients: Information on substances and mixtures.
  4. First aid measures: Description of first aid measures, symptoms of exposure and instructions for medical assistance.
  5. Fire-fighting measures: Fire extinguishing agents, fire hazards and information for the fire brigade.
  6. Accidental release measures: Precautions, containment and handling of substances and mixtures.
  7. Handling and storage: Precautions for safe handling and storage conditions.
  8. Exposure controls/personal protection measures: Exposure control parameters and protection measures.
  9. Physical and chemical properties: Information on basic physical and chemical properties.
  10. Stability and reactivity: Information on reactivity, chemical stability and possible dangerous reactions.
  11. Toxicological information: Information on human health hazards and other hazards.
  12. Ecological information: Information on toxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation and other adverse effects on the environment.
  13. Waste treatment: Waste disposal methods.
  14. Transport information: UN number, transport hazard class and special precautions.
  15. Regulatory information: Safety, health and environmental legislation.
  16. Other information: Additional product information.

All listed sections must be completed as required and presented in a clear and concise manner.

What is the safety data sheet for?

The safety data sheet provides complete and clear information on the physical and chemical properties of the product, allowing users to properly understand the characteristics of the substance.

Here are the main reasons why a safety data sheet is essential:

  • Hazard reduction: The MSDS is intended to reduce the risks associated with the production, transport, storage and use of chemical substances and mixtures classified as potentially hazardous to human health and the environment. It is intended to ensure safety in the workplace by providing information on use and working conditions.
  • Hazard Communication: The safety data sheet allows communication of the hazards associated with the substance or mixture. 
  • Worker safety: This is a key document for workers as it contains information on the properties of the substance or mixture, the hazards associated with it and instructions for emergency and exposure management.
  • Accident prevention: well-prepared SDSs enable the conditions for working with chemicals to be adjusted accordingly and the right health and environmental protection measures to be selected. This prevents accidents and environmental disasters, protecting employees and company property.

Who is responsible for preparing the safety data sheet?

Under current legislation, the manufacturer or importer is primarily responsible for compiling and making available the safety data sheet. They are required to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the substance, including physical and chemical properties, potential health and environmental hazards, and appropriate precautions. Through this, the manufacturer or importer plays a key role in ensuring the safe use of chemical products and addressing potential risks. However, users also have a responsibility to use this information to take appropriate action and keep their workplace safe.


What is an SDS and how does it differ from the former MSDS?

The SDS (Safety Data Sheet) is a harmonised information format for chemicals that contains more detailed safety and health information than the previous MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). The SDS contains 16 sections, including substance identification, safety information, exposure handling and physicochemical properties. It is required to provide workers with information on the safe handling of chemicals.

What information is contained on the SDS and why is it important for safety ?

The SDS contains information about a chemical, such as physical and chemical properties, how to deal with spills, and toxic effects. It is important to ensure safety as it enables workers and users of the substance to understand the potential hazards, to deal correctly with exposures and minimise the risk of accidents, and to ensure proper protection of health and the environment. With this information, it is possible to effectively manage risks and prevent potential hazards associated with the substance.

Who is responsible for preparing the safety data sheet?

The preparation of a safety data sheet is usually the responsibility of the manufacturer, distributor or importer of a chemical substance or preparation. It may also be required by legislation, such as the European Union REACH Regulation. It is an important document containing information on the physical, chemical and health properties of substances, as well as recommendations for safe handling.

How can I obtain an SDS for chemicals?

To obtain an SDS for a chemical, contact the manufacturer or supplier of the chemical. These companies are required to provide an SDS for each chemical they offer. 

What are the recommendations for keeping and updating SDSs ?

It is recommended to keep SDS in a place that is easily accessible to workers, away from hazardous substances. In accordance with the provisions set out in Article 36 of the REACH Regulation, each actor in the supply chain, whether manufacturer, importer, downstream user or distributor, is required to keep all safety data sheets for at least 10 years from the date of last manufacture, import, supply or use of the substance or mixture.

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