How to read an SDS

How to read an SDS

Written by Dina Adlouni

Published June 12, 2023

How to Effectively Read a Safety Data Sheet

Long pages full of foreign jargon can make information within your safety data sheets (SDS) hard to decipher. You might be feeling overwhelmed and question where you should even start?  

Safety data sheets are incredible sources of information which can help you build a strong approach to chemical safety at the workplace. Every part of the SDS is important, however there are certain sections you can focus on to pull out key elements that will help you protect your employees. Read on to learn more about: 

  • Why SDS sheets are important 
  • How many sections an SDS has 
  • 6 sections to focus on 
  • Your trusted place for expert support 

Why are Safety Data Sheets Important?

Safety data sheets are very important to your organization and chemical safety approach. First and foremost, they allow you to understand more about the hazardous chemical products you have on site and how to properly use them, mitigate risks related to them, and more. This information can help you develop chemical procedures, training, risk assessments, etc. Safety data sheets are also critical for you to maintain compliance within your region and industry.  

If you are located within Europe, you need safety data sheets to be compliant with Restriction, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), and Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regulations. If you are located in the United States or Canada you should follow the requirements outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) respectively.  

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How Many Sections Does an SDS Have?

Safety data sheets are made up of 16 sections, ranging from a variety of topics such as first aid measures, exposure controls, stability and reactivity and much more. The following is a list of all 16 sections: 

  • Section1: Identification of the substance or mixture 
  • Section 2: Hazard(s) identification 
  • Section 3: Composition and information on ingredients 
  • Section 4: First aid measures 
  • Section 5: Firefighting measures 
  • Section 6: Accidental release measures 
  • Section 7: Handling and storage 
  • Section 8: Exposure controls and personal protection 
  • Section 9: Physical and chemical properties 
  • Section 10: Stability and reactivity 
  • Section 11: Toxicological information 
  • Section 12: Ecological information 
  • Section 13: Disposal consideration 
  • Section 14: Transport information 
  • Section 15: Regulatory information  
  • Section 16: Other information  

6 Sections to Focus on Within Your SDS

As previously mentioned, all of this information can be overwhelming and time consuming to read. We want to make sure you’re optimizing your time and creating a safe working environment for your employees. That’s why we’ve narrowed it down to 6 sections you should focus on when going through your safety data sheets.  

1. Section 2- Hazard(s) Identification

Section 2 covers the hazards of the chemical product and how it could potentially harm your employees. Pictograms outlined by Classification, Labelling and Packaging regulations (CLP) if you are located in Europe, OSHA if you are in the United States, and WHMIS in you are in Canada, are usually found in this section.  

Discover more about what they look like with our free GHS/CLP poster 

Use this section to become familiar with the hazards this chemical product could pose, so you can come up with safety procedures, policies, and training to help mitigate any risks.  

2. Section 4- First Aid Measures

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3. Section 6- Accidental Release Measures

Section 6 outlines what must be done if there is a chemical leak or spill on site. Read this section to learn more about how to properly clean it up, the personal protective equipment (PPE) employees need to wear when cleaning up, and what to do to prevent this from reoccurring.  

Make sure you resource the proper tools and PPE needed for employees to deal with such a situation based on the recommendations outlined in the SDS, and develop employee training procedures and policies, so they are prepared if such an event occurs. Don’t forget to communicate these accidental release measures and any documents you develop with your teams.  

4. Section 7 and Section 10- Handling and Storage / Stability and Reactivity


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5. Section 8 - Exposure Controls and Personal Protection


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Your Trusted Place for Expert Support

You can streamline your SDS processes, saving you time and energy, with the help of a digital solution like EcoOnline’s SDS management module. Having the ability to digitize and centralize all information in one platform can be a game changer. This way you can easily distribute information to all key stakeholders within your organization and easily maintain a record of all safety data sheets. With our unique Safety Protection Sheets, you can also get a snapshot into the most important sections of the SDS, instead of spending hours having to pull out all the information yourself.  

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Author Dina Adlouni

Dina is a Content Marketing Manager at EcoOnline. She has been a content writer for eight years and has been writing about health and safety for the past three years. 

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