Safety data sheet

Safety data sheet

What is the purpose of safety data sheets?

The safety data sheet (SDS) is an important tool for communicating safety information about hazardous substances and mixtures within the supply chain, e.g. about fossil fuels such as diesel fuel, heating oil and gasoline (petrol) fuels. Besides information about the respective supplier, it also contains information on a product’s identity and composition, the hazards posed, safe handling, preventive measures, and what to do in an emergency. The safety data sheet is aimed at people who use, store, or handle certain substances and/or mixtures in their work. It helps in identifying risk management measures to protect human health and the environment, and therefore enables safe handling of hazardous substances and mixtures.

In the European Economic Area (EEA), safety data sheet has to be divided into the following sections:

  • Identification of the substance/mixture and of the company/undertaking 
  • Hazards identification (classification, label elements, etc.)
  • Composition/information on ingredients
  • First-aid measures
  • Fire-fighting measures
  • Accidental release measures
  • Handling and storage
  • Exposure controls/personal protection
  • Physical and chemical properties
  • Stability and reactivity
  • Toxicological information (toxicological effects of the substance/mixture)
  • Ecological information (toxicity, persistence and degradability, bioaccumulative potential, mobility in soil, etc.)
  • Disposal considerations
  • Transport information
  • Regulatory information
  • Other information

The safety data sheet is usually produced by the manufacturer of a substance or mixture, and then passed along the supply chain to industrial users via traders. Safety data sheets are never given out to end-consumers.

Whether a safety data sheet is required for a given product, and details of what information must be included, is regulated by law in many countries. In the EU, the requirements for safety data sheets are prescribed by Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 (REACH Regulation). General rules for creating, distributing and updating safety data sheets are contained in Title IV of the regulation. Annex II of the regulation describes in detail the required content for the 16 sections the SDS is structured into. In addition, the European Chemicals Agency has also published an extensive guide on compiling safety data sheets, which goes into more detail for putting these regulations into practice.

In its structure and content, the European version of the safety data sheets substantially corresponds to the international "GHS" (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) guidelines, which is an attempt to create a globally harmonized system for the classification and labelling of hazardous chemicals. The GHS is already being put into practice in many countries worldwide, for example, in the EU by Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008. The GHS contains rules for identifying the risks posed by a substance or mixture. It is developing a system for determining the point above which a substance or mixture is classified as hazardous, and what information should be communicated to users about any identified risks by means of labels and safety data sheets.

Status: December 2015
All information subject to change. Errors and omissions excepted.