How to Write an SDS

How to Write an SDS

Written by Dina Adlouni

Published June 12, 2023

What You Need to Know to Create a Safety Data Sheet

Creating a safe working environment for all employees is every employer’s highest priority. Safety data sheets (SDS) help to do this as they provide information on the hazardous chemical products that may be found in the workplace. By outlining the risk to people as well as the environment, an SDS can give you an indication of how to properly mitigate risks related to hazardous substances. 

Our team wants to help you create a safer workspace and follow legislation in your location, by exploring how to write an SDS as well as: 

  • What is a safety data sheet? 
  • What is the purpose of a safety data sheet? 
  • Who is responsible for writing a chemical product’s SDS? 
  • What should a safety data sheet contain? 
  • 3 tips to follow to learn how to create a safety data sheet 

EcoOnline's SDS authoring software website page

What is a safety data sheet? 

A safety data sheet is a comprehensive document which contains 16 sections, outlined by the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. Certain requirements may be different according to your region, so be sure to check with your regulatory body before creating your safety data sheet.  

From the identification of a specific chemical to accidental release measures, a safety data sheet contains information (in the language of your region) on all aspects of a chemical product which may be found in the work environment and how to effectively use, store and manage it.  

What is the purpose of a safety data sheet?

A safety data sheet is mandatory and vital for an organization to remain compliant with Restriction, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), and Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regulations if you are in Europe, the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) if you are in the United States, and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) if you are in Canada.  

This is a requirement for all those who are producing and distributing chemical products to provide safety data sheets for substances they are putting into the market. Employers who use these chemical products in the workplace are responsible for maintaining a record of their respective safety data sheets and following recommendations for safe use. Without this, your organization could face hefty fines.  

A safety data sheet is also important because it provides information on how an employer can keep their teams safe from chemical risks and how to properly work with, store and manage these chemical products. Information on what to do if there is an emergency such as a chemical leak or spill, the proper personal protective equipment required, as well as the chemical product’s impact on the environment is also included.  

Every section found within the SDS is meant to educate the employer on how to properly protect their employees and the environment when using this chemical product, to set a foundation for their own chemical management procedures and risk assessments.   

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Who is responsible for writing a product's SDS?

The manufacturer or distributor of the chemical itself is responsible for creating these safety data sheets. Anyone who creates a chemical in a laboratory which is sent to another facility is also responsible for writing an SDS. 

In all cases, it is the employer’s responsibility to maintain and manage these safety data sheets. They are also responsible for making sure this information is up to date and accessible to all employees. Employers must also communicate all relevant information and train employees before they begin working with any of these chemical products.   

What should a safety data sheet contain?

When writing a safety data sheet, there are specific SDS format requirements. The following are the 16 sections which must be included in any safety data sheet, as well as information on what should be mentioned within each: 

Section 1: Identification of the substance or mixture

The first section of your safety data sheet is a description of the chemical product or mixture. This includes its name, area of use, what it should not be used for, the name of the manufacturer and supplier, as well as their contact information. If a chemical product is hazardous, the Unique Formula Identifier (UFI) must also be identified and included in this section.  

Section 2: Hazard(s) identification

The second section outlines the potential hazards this chemical product could pose to employees and the environment. In this section, pictograms according to CLP if you are in Europe, OSHA if you are in the United States, and WHMIS in you are in Canada, must be included along with a hazard classification. It should also include hazard and precautionary statements, as well as a description of any hazards not classified. 

>>Dive deeper into Section 2

Section 3: Composition and information on ingredients

Next, go into greater detail by highlighting the hazardous ingredients of the mixture or chemical product.  

If you are located in the US or Canada, this includes:  

  • Name of the substances 
  • Concentration of each substance 
  • Identifiers, such as Chemical Abstractions Service (CAS) number 

If you are in the EU, this includes: 

  • Name of the substances 
  • Concentration of each substance 
  • Identifiers, such as Chemical Abstractions Service (CAS) number  
  • Classification of each substance 
  • Specific concentration limit (SCL) 
  • Multiplication factor (M-factor) 
  • Acute toxicity estimate (ATE)  

Section 4: First-aid measures

In this section, you must write what first-aid measures must be taken if an employee is exposed to a hazardous chemical product. This must be clear and direct enough for anyone without any medical background to understand. Include information according to what must be done if contact is made with the skin, eyes, if it is inhaled or ingested.  

Section 5: Firefighting measures

Now you must indicate the firefighting measures which are required due to the chemical product. This includes whether the substance is flammable or not and under what conditions. You should also write how it should be extinguished and if any hazardous combustion products are formed due to the reaction.  

Section 6: Accidental release measures

Here you must write what measures must be taken if there is an accident on site, such as a chemical spill or leak. Include information on how to clean it up, what protective clothing must be worn, and how to stop this from happening again.  

Section 7: Handling and storage

In section 7, write what handling and storage procedures and requirements are needed to mitigate risks related to this chemical product. Make sure to mention any storage conditions, such as the temperature it must be kept at, and how to properly use the product when completing a task. 

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Section 8: Exposure controls and personal protection

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and exposure controls must be written to help the employer know how to keep employees safe. Indicate if the exposure limits apply for any of the substances in the chemical product, as well as recommended exposure controls which may include engineering controls and/or PPE like respirators or gloves.  

Section 9: Physical and chemical properties

Here you must document the physical and chemical properties of the substance. This includes: 

The physical state Odour and appearance Odour threshold
Specific gravity Vapour density and pressure Evaporation rate
Boiling and freezing point PH Coefficient of water/oil distribution 
Solubility in water Flashpoint  Upper flammable limit
Explosion data Autoignition temperature  Lower flammable limit

 

Section 10: Stability and reactivity

The stability and reactivity of the mixture must be explained in this section. Write whether the chemical is stable and if not, under what conditions. Include if it is incompatible with other substances and if so, which. Write whether it is reactive, how it will react, and under what conditions this may occur. Also mention what conditions to avoid, so adverse effects do not occur  

Section 11: Toxicological information

Toxicological information pertains to how this substance may be harmful or toxic to humans. Write down the effects of possible acute and chronic exposure, as well as levels of:  

Carcinogenicity (IARC and ACGIH) Reproductive toxicity Embryotoxicity
Teratogenicity Mutagenicity Skin sensitisation

 

Section 12: Ecological information 

This section pertains to what may happen if this chemical product was exposed to the environment. Write what would happen if it were released into water, land, etc. and what short and long-term effects may occur as a result.  

Section 13: Disposal considerations

Here you must document how to properly dispose of the chemical product to protect both people and the environment. Write whether this must be done using specific protective equipment, what conditions it must be disposed under, if the waste is classified as hazardous, etc.  

Section 14: Transport information

Certain chemical products are classified as dangerous goods during transport. When applicable, document the dangerous good classification in this section including the UN number, hazard class, and packaging group, as well as other precautions for safe transport.  

Section 15: Regulatory information

In section 15 you should mention any regulations pertaining to the regulating body within your region. This could include regulations required to protect employees or the environment, and/or if any of the substances in your product are subject to any restrictions.  

Section 16: Other information

In the final section, you can write any information that you would feel is important for the employer to know when using this chemical product. This can include advice on training, when the SDS will be updated, list of abbreviations used in the SDS with an explanation for each, etc.  

3 tips to follow to learn how to create a safety data sheet

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1. Review requirements according to your region

Every region has its own requirements that need to be followed when writing safety data sheets. Make sure you are up to date on what the requirement is for your specific region. As previously mentioned, follow the guidelines outlined by Restriction, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), and Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regulations if you are in Europe, Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) if you are in the United States, and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) if you are in Canada.

2. Research and collect comprehensive information on the chemical products included and potential risks

Before writing a safety data sheet, you must be very knowledgeable about the chemical products included in your workplace and their potential risks. Research and collect as much information as possible, so you can give a detailed account of all areas of these substances within your SDS.  

3. Find available guidance within your region as an example to help you get started

It can be tough to start from scratch, so try to find any available guidance you can within your region. If you are located in the EU, the European Chemicals agency (ECHA), has created a Guidance on the Completion of Safety Data Sheets which could be very helpful. If you know anyone in your organization who has previously written safety data sheets or have connections to someone who has, reach out to them for guidance as well.  

How EcoOnline Can Help

If you’re struggling to write safety data sheets, leave the heavy lifting to us! Our SDS authoring software, ALMEGO® , simplifies the entire process as you can get step by step guidance to build your SDS digitally. With the help of automation, smart rules authoring, algorithms, CLP calculations and more, you can create multiple safety data sheets in 48 languages.  

"We, as a producer of brand and private label products, need a quick and flexible system to handle the SDS’s. The system is user-friendly and can easily handle SDSs for many different trade names. The ALMEGO® system is the first system that we have found that fulfils our requirements."  

- Steffen Damkjær, UniCan A/S  

EcoOnline's SDS authoring software website page


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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