Understanding the Different SDS Sections

Understanding the Different SDS Sections

In 2012, OSHA changed the HCS to make workplaces safer and help people use chemicals more safely. They also added a new type of data sheet called an SDS. Are you tasked with understanding safety data sheets? 

Understanding the different SDS sections can be overwhelming. With 16 sections, to get your head around, it can be a challenge to comprehend them all. In this helpful guide will walk you through what is contained in each SDS section and provide easy-to-understand explanations.

Learn about hazard identification tools such as protective equipment and safe handling practices. Knowing proper protocols ensures everyone’s safety while also making sure your facility is compliant with industry regulations and best practices. 

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about safety data sheets. Read on to stay up to date on the latest information about staying safe from chemical exposure.

What Is a Safety Safety Data Sheet?

The primary source of safety information for any chemical is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS), which used to be the Material Safety Data Sheet. SDSs serve as instructional guides for chemicals.

Not only do they tell you about the primary hazards of chemicals and how to handle and dispose of chemicals, but they also give information on health effects. You’ll also find a guide on how to give first aid to and fight fires involving them. They will also explain how to deliver or ship them and other relevant information.

Even basic reagents like water, salt, and sugar have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) which may sound scary. However, all SDS has the same 16 categories and provide important information to handle the reagent safely.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers need to make sure that the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for all hazardous chemicals present in the workplace are easily available to their employees.

Employers have the option to store SDSs in a binder or on computers, as long as employees can quickly access the information without leaving their work area, and a backup is available in case of power outages or emergencies.

Depending on the size of your company you may want to assign someone to obtain and keep the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).

If you receive a product without an SDS, it’s your responsibility as the employer to contact the manufacturer or supplier to get one.

Overview of Safety Data Sheets

An SDS should have 16 sections to it. Here is an overview of what each of the sections consists of.

The first 8 sections of the document provide basic details about the chemical, including its identification, potential hazards, composition, and safe handling procedures in case of emergency, such as during a fire. This information is useful for quick reference.

Sections 9 to 11 and 16 of the SDS provide technical and scientific details. This includes information about the physical and chemical properties, stability, reactivity, toxicity, exposure control, and the date of preparation or last revision. If there is no relevant information found for any required element, the SDS will state that.

To be in line with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Sections 12 to 15 must be in the SDS.

Breakdown of the 16 SDS Sections

Regardless of what the product is, there are 16 different sections. Here’s a breakdown of what each section is and an explanation of what information it gives.

1. Identification

The Identification section of your item provides information like the common names and synonyms. It will also have details about the name of the supplier or manufacturer, and a contact number to use in case of queries or emergencies.

  • Product identifier used on the label
  • Any other common names of the substance
  • Recommended use of the chemical
  • Any restrictions on the use
  • Name, address, and phone number of the manufacturer
  • Name, address, and phone number of the importer
  • Name, address, and phone number of the responsible third party
  • Emergency phone number

2. Hazards

The Hazards Identification section provides information about the potential dangers of a chemical. The risks are on a scale from 0 to 4, with 0 being the least risky and 4 being the riskiest.

This information is often presented using the NFPA 704 colored diamond or hazard information bar, which allows for easy understanding at a glance. This is essentially the key that you can use to identify the immediate impact on health, flammability, and reactivity.

  • Hazard classification of the item
  • Single word
  • Pictograms
  • Use official hazard symbols
  • Description of any additional hazards
  • A hazard statement
  • A precautionary statement

3. Composition and Ingredient Information

This section provides information about the composition of the reagent or product. Some data sheets only list the hazardous ingredients, while others provide a complete list of every chemical name, formula, and molecular weight.

For Substances

  • Chemical name
  • The common name and any other known names for the chemical
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number
  • Impurities and stabilizing additives
  • Any other unique identifiers

For Mixtures

  • The above Information for the individual substances
  • Chemical name mix
  • Concentrations of all ingredients

For Chemicals Where a Trade Secret Is Claimed

  • The specific chemical identity
  • Exact percentages of composition is required

4. First Aid Measures

The first aid measures provide instructions on how to take care of your coworkers if they come into contact with the substance. It is important to remember that you are the initial responder in case of a spill or exposure until additional help arrives.

  • First-aid instructions based on exposure including inhalation, ingestion, skin and eye contact
  • Description of symptoms or effects
  • List of any symptoms that may occur
  • Actions for immediate medical care and treatment

5. Firefighting Measures

It’s important to have firefighting measures available because not all chemical fires can be extinguished with water. For instance, water should not be used to put out a magnesium fire as it creates hydrogen, which is highly flammable. For example, to extinguish a magnesium fire, use sand instead.

When burning certain reagents, they may decompose and create additional hazards of equal intensity. It is important to be mindful of these secondary hazards.

  • Recommendations for suitable extinguishing equipment
  • Information about extinguishing method
  • Any equipment that is not appropriate for a particular situation
  • Specific hazards that develop from the chemical during the fire
  • Any special protective equipment or precautions for firefighters

6. Accidental Release Measures

This section provides guidance on how to protect yourself and the environment in the event of a spill. It also includes information on how to clean up spills, if possible.

  • Personal precautions and protective equipment to prevent the contamination of skin, eyes, and clothing
  • Emergency procedures
  • Instructions for evacuations
  • Information about when further consultation with experts is needed
  • Methods and materials used for containment
  • Cleanup procedures

7. Handling and Storage

The section on handling and storage contains information about any specific properties of the chemical, such as if it easily absorbs moisture (hygroscopic). It also provides instructions on what conditions to avoid, such as separating acids and bases.

  • Precautions for safe handling
  • Recommendations incompatible chemicals
  • How to minimize the release of the chemical into the environment
  • General hygiene practices including eating, drinking, and smoking in work areas
  • The conditions for safe storage and specific storage requirements

8. Exposure Controls and Personal Protection

The following section specifies the PPE necessary for safeguarding your eyes, lungs, body, and hands while handling the chemical.

It also outlines the exposure limits applicable to the reagent’s ingredients and assists in determining whether requesting exposure monitoring is necessary.

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
  • Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)
  • Engineering controls
  • Recommendations for personal protective measures
  • Any specific PPE details including glove material and breakthrough time of the glove material

9. Physical and Chemical Properties

This section provides technical details of different chemicals such as their molecular weight, color, odor, pH, phase change temperatures, flash point, and vapor pressures. This information can help you differentiate between various chemicals.

This should include details on the following:

  • Appearance and physical properties including physical state, pH, viscosity, and color
  • Upper and lower flammability or explosive limits and flash point
  • Auto-ignition temperature
  • Melting point and freezing point
  • Initial boiling point and boiling range
  • Odor and odor pressure
  • Vapor pressure and vapor pressure
  • Evaporation rate
  • Relative density and solubility
  • Partition coefficient: n-octanol/water
  • Decomposition temperature

The SDS may not have all the items listed if they are not relevant or unavailable. In such cases, the SDS should indicate that the information is not included for that specific chemical property.

Manufacturers may include other important properties such as Kst, which is used to evaluate the explosive potential of combustible dust.

10. Stability and Reactivity Information

The document lists conditions that can make a chemical unstable, such as shock, static electricity, or ambient temperature. It also provides information on whether a chemical reagent should be combined with an additive to keep it stable and if there are any signs to indicate spoilage, like changes in color.


  • Description of specific test data for the chemicals
  • Data can be for a class or family

Chemical Stability

  • Is the chemical stable or unstable under normal ambient temperature
  • How stable is the chemical while in storage and handling
  • Any stabilizers that may be needed to maintain chemical stability
  • Safety issues that could occur should the product change in physical appearance


  • Possibility of hazardous reactions
  • Description of the conditions in which hazardous reactions may occur
  • Conditions that should be avoided
  • List of all classes of incompatible materials
  • Any known or anticipated hazardous decomposition products that could be produced because of use, storage, or heating

11. Toxicological Information

Toxicological information informs you about the harmful effects that a chemical can have on your body, such as targeting specific organs, causing cancer (carcinogenicity), affecting fetal development (teratogenicity), or causing mutations in your DNA (mutagenicity).

When provided, the LD50 value is included. LD50 is the abbreviation for Lethal Dose 50%, which refers to the amount of a chemical needed to kill 50% of the animals used in testing.

  • The likely routes of exposure such as inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact
  • Information on delayed, immediate, or chronic effects from short- and long-term exposure
  • Numerical measures of toxicity
  • Description of the symptoms
  • The indication is the chemical is listed in the National Toxicology Program (NTP)
  • Report on carcinogens or has been found to be a potential carcinoid formation

The ecological information will inform you about the potential harm a reagent may have on the environment, its ability to accumulate, and the length of time it takes to degrade.

When possible, the EC50 value is provided. This value represents the amount of the chemical needed to cause half of the maximum possible effect that can be measured.

  • Data from toxicity tests performed on aquatic and/or terrestrial organisms
  • Potential for the chemical to persist and degrade in the environment either through biodegradation, oxidation, or hydrolysis
  • Results of tests of bioaccumulation potential
  • References to the octanol-water partition coefficient (Kow) and the bioconcentration factor (BCF) where available
  • Potential for a substance to move from the soil to the groundwater
  • Any other adverse effects

13. Disposal Information

The disposal information provides instructions on how to properly dispose of your chemicals. It also includes any packaging that may have been contaminated.

  • Description of appropriate disposal containers to use
  • Recommendations of appropriate disposal methods
  • Details of the physical and chemical properties that may affect disposal activities
  • Information discouraging sewage disposal
  • Any special precautions for landfills or incineration

14. Transportation Information

The transportation information provides the shipping requirements for sending the item. This can be either from the supplier to you, or from you to someone outside your organization.

  • UN number and UN proper shipping name
  • Transport hazard class
  • Packing group number based on the degree of hazard
  • Environmental hazards according to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code
  • Guide on transport in bulk
  • Special precautions which an employee needs to comply with in connection with transport

15. Regulatory Information

This section includes necessary warnings regarding health and environmental risks. These are in accordance with the regional, national, and state levels.

  • Any national and/or regional regulatory information on the chemical or mixtures
  • May be from OSHA, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, or the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations

16. Other Information

This section of an SDS is a miscellaneous information section where some manufacturers may include the date of document creation and updates. It may also mention the permission to print unlimited copies for internal use or state that the information is under review.

This section will contain any additional information that is not covered in the other 15 categories.

How to Use an SDS

The idea of using an SDS is to convey information quickly and clearly. It might seem overwhelming to fill in all the sections however the important thing to remember is the identification of the chemical, any hazards, injury prevention, and response.

Here’s how to use an SDS for your business.

Collect and File Information

If your laboratory does not already have a collection of Safety Data Sheets (SDS), make sure to file the SDS for any new chemicals ordered. Get into the habit of doing this systematically. It’s up to you how you collect this data and store it.

Work to a Rota

Consider creating a schedule to regularly check if the reagents you order for your lab are up to date. This will ensure that your records are complete and current.

Archive Them Electronically

Consider creating your own SDS library for the chemicals you frequently use. Although you could store information in a physical file, it may be more convenient to do it online.

By storing SDS electronically, you can categorize and label each SDS according to the item name, manufacturer, assay purpose, or any other method that suits your lab’s needs. Additionally, this allows you and your employees to search for data sheets conveniently.

What Should You Do When You Receive an SDS?

If you’re receiving a product, you’ll need to make sure the SDS is compliant. It should meet both the set regulations and any onsite procedures. If there is information missing, it’s important to contact the supplier.

Use this checklist to review any new products that come onto your premises.

  • Are there 16 sections and are they complete?
  • Is the language correct for your market if you have bought it from a foreign company?
  • Is the language clear and accurate?
  • Are there dates associated with any revisions?
  • Are these revisions up to date?

10 Ways to Use Safety Data Sheets

By now, you’ve learned about the 16 different sections of the SDS sheet, how to use them, and what to do when you receive them. A,n SDS isn’t a static document. It has numerous uses. Here are 10 ways your company can use safety data sheets.

1. Reviews

It is crucial to review the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) before using or selling a product. It provides all necessary information related to the chemical composition of the product.

This is important for workers or end-users of a product. Use your SDS to review your inventory and see gaps in the market for improvement.

2. Develop Procedures

You can use your SDS to develop procedures for handling, storing, and disposing of products safely. This can help minimize potential risks associated with the product and highlight areas where you need to improve training for your staff.

3. Transparency and Communication

Use your SDS to inform employees of safety information associated with hazardous materials they may use or encounter on the job. This allows them to make informed decisions and be aware of any potential risks associated with materials.

4. Emergency Information

If a problem should arise, an up-to-date SDS will provide emergency responders with the information needed to safely respond to incidents involving hazardous materials. This also allows them to tackle an issue in the best possible way.

5. Establish Best Practices

Your SDS can be a great way to train workers on the proper use and storage of hazardous materials before working with them. Establishing best practices must be done before any hazardous materials are used to ensure the safety of everyone in the facility.

6. Standardization

Familiarize yourself with any warning labels. Use standardized symbols on the product’s packaging that may be specific to your industry or application. This should also include additional safety measures to take when using the product.

7. Employee Safety

Ensure all staff are aware of any protective clothing or equipment necessary when handling hazardous material. This helps avoid harm or injury while at work and helps you avoid costly medical bills.

8. Compliance

Update SDS when changes are made to manufacturing processes or ingredients used in a product. This ensures you’re a company with health and safety that may impact workers performing duties related to these substances/materials/products during their shift. By staying compliant, you can avoid hefty fines.

9. Enhances Reputation

By developing appropriate containment measures, you can demonstrate to your employees and customers that you’re a reputable company.

Using the best practices that are specific to your industry’s needs will make you look professional. If you’re not sure you are complying with regulations then you may want to consult a professional where necessary

10. Saves Money

By staying compliant you will save money. This can be from improved employee safety to less waste from contaminated products. You can also avoid getting struck with a hefty fine.

Need to know more about SDS?

Having a comprehensive understanding of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and its 16 sections is key to ensuring workplace safety. Not only does the SDS help you stay compliant but it helps you avoid hefty fines, and improve your company’s reputation.

If you need help navigating the SDS sections, and requirements or simply want more information about how to use them effectively contact us today. Our team of experts are available and happy to help. Get in touch to schedule a demo to get your SDS on track.