OSHA-compliant hazard communication requires an understanding of GHS Safety Data Sheets, including the proper format to how to use them. Companies that manufacture, package, or distribute hazardous chemicals must create Safety Data Sheets (SDS) to communicate the components, properties, and safety precautions using standardized language and classifications. If your workforce isn’t up-to-date on hazard communication regulations, you’re at risk of accidents, injuries, and non-compliance fines. Follow this guide to strengthen your understanding of SDS and improve GHS compliance.

What Does SDS Stand For?

SDS stands for Safety Data Sheet, while its predecessor, MSDS, means Material Safety Data Sheet. The SDS replaced the MSDS when OSHA adopted the GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) for its hazard communication regulations. This update standardized the documents created by chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to improve understanding across language barriers and throughout all industries.

What Is a Safety Data Sheet?

Safety Data Sheets are printed or digital documents that tell you how to properly handle, store, and use chemicals. MSDS provided similar information, but lacked the standardized format of SDS. This meant that access, language, and terms variances contributed to confusion and mishandling. OSHA regulations for Hazard Communication¹ now mandate that SDS follow GHS standards for chemical classification and safe handling.

Are SDS Required?

Any company that has chemicals on-site is required to have SDS available to employees to reference safe handling, transfer, and storage of hazardous chemicals—and employees should be trained on how to use SDS for daily operations and in the case of emergencies.

What Information Does an SDS Contain?

Safety Data Sheets communicate most of the same information as the MSDS, except SDS are presented in a consistent user-friendly, 16-section format. OSHA enforces sections 1 through 8, sections 9 through 11, and section 16 (displayed in bold, below). Together these highlight general chemical, identification, and hazard information, plus technical and scientific classifications and exposure control techniques. SDS sections 12 through 15 are not mandated by OSHA; these GHS classifications are handled by the United Nations and other agencies.

Manufacturers, employers, and employees should be familiar with the SDS format to quickly locate information in any of these 16 sections:

  1. Identification
  2. Hazard identification
  3. Composition/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 (non-mandatory)
  12. Ecological information (non-mandatory)
  13. Disposal considerations (non-mandatory)
  14. Transport information (non-mandatory)
  15. Regulatory information (non-mandatory)
  16. Other information (revisions, explanations of changes, etc.)

How to Use SDS

SDS is designed to allow users quick access to pertinent sections to review the safety precautions and information. The 16 sections of Safety Data Sheets should always appear in the order listed above—the standardized format makes data retrieval more efficient. In the case of a fire, it is easier to locate item number 5, fire-fighting measures, without reading the entire document. For spills or exposure, employees may quickly skip to number 4 (First-Aid) or number 6 (Accidental Release) without losing valuable time scanning multiple pages.

How to Comply With OSHA Regulations for Safety Data Sheets

There are many simple solutions to avoid SDS violations and bring hazard communication programs up to code. Create and maintain an SDS library with up-to-date and accessible chemical hazards information, as required by OSHA regulations². Whether you choose to keep SDS documents in binders in a central location, or to maintain a digital collection with hard copy backups, having organized, up-to-date, and easy-to-find Safety Data Sheets gives employees rapid access to information and helps you remain compliant.

Visual Cues for Safety Data Sheet Locations

Industrial workplaces can use visual cues to bolster their hazard communication programs. Our floor signs, tape, and GHS-SDS supplies simplify marking Safety Data Sheet stations, creating visual reminders for employees to keep the area accessible and unobstructed. Use an SDS binder to keep your documents protected from damage and spills, and hang a rack to display the binder at eye level. Include signage and arrows to highlight the material location so it is visible from a distance. Mark the floor in front of the SDS station using a precut tape kit, which displays “Keep Clear” zones so the SDS station isn’t accidentally hidden behind inventory, equipment, or trash. 

As a leading manufacturer of floor tape, signs, and other adhesive solutions, we’ve seen the difference proper markings have for keeping safety equipment and information accessible and visible. For more tips for improving safety in industrial workplaces, visit our Resource Center

¹ https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA3514.pdf
² https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1200