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SDS – Safety Data Sheet

What is an SDS?

The simple explanation is that an SDS is a document that accompanies a hazardous chemical and substance and that outlines the dangers, composition, safe handling, and disposal of that chemical or substance. The name SDS simply refers to a safety data sheet that is constructed to conform to the UN’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS), which mandates use of a standardized 16-section format, arranged in a strict order.

With GHS adoption happening around the world, most current discussion of safety data sheets focuses on the GHS-aligned SDS format. However, even after countries complete GHS adoption, it’s possible that some manufacturers will have missed target dates for creating GHS-aligned SDSs, as has been the case in the United States. As a result, employers may need to continue maintaining safety data sheet libraries that include both SDS and MSDS formats.

Chemical Management from VelocityEHS gives employers access to the industry leading database of millions of safety data sheets, and the ability to filter results to quickly identify documents in a variety of regulatory formats — including GHS — making it easy to secure whichever format is necessary for a specific workplace. If you are looking for an MSDS or a newly formatted GHS SDS, try our SDS/MSDS Search tool, or start a free trial of the VelocityEHS solution now.

With the transition from old MSDS formats to the new GHS-styled SDS being such a major part of GHS adoption, we have outlined three areas where organizations that traffic in SDSs may face challenges — SDS authoring, SDS management and SDS training.

How VelocityEHS Can Help

VelocityEHS is the leader in SDS and Chemical Management. With the industry’s best SDS database, backed by easy to use tools for printing GHS aligned labels and providing Right-to-Know Access to employees, your people can work with confidence. Our library of SDSs includes millions of documents, and your people can request missing items with the click of a button. HazCom regulations around the world are on an aggressive schedule of evolution and updates, VelocityEHS is the secret to staying ahead of compliance.

What is an SDS?

What is an SDS?

Video length: 2 minutes 1 second

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Making the switch from paper to electronic SDS/MSDS management couldn’t be easier. Just send us your safety data sheets and our team of experts will convert your paper and/or already converted electronic files into your very own eBinder.

SDS Authoring

Authoring for GHS

We can author new SDSs or update existing ones, translate new or updated SDSs, and perform a comprehensive SDS inventory review. Our trained and certified professionals use the best available authoring technology to ensure your safety documents meet the most stringent requirements.

Authoring a safety data sheet to comply with GHS, OSHA, WHMIS, EU, CLP, or any other local, federal and global regulations requires precision and expertise. Every SDS we author undergoes a thorough review process to ensure 100% accuracy and compliance. Let our experts take care of the SDSs while you stay focused on your core business.

Learn more about our SDS Authoring service.

SDS Formatting

What are Format Requirements for SDSs?

Under the GHS-aligned HazCom Standard, SDSs must have a specific 16-section format, and all sections must be present, have the correct headings and be in the correct order. Sections 1 through 8 contain general information about chemical identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices, and emergency control measures (e.g., fire fighting). Sections 9 through 11 and 16 contain other technical and scientific information, such as physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity information, toxicological information, and the date of preparation or last SDS revision. Sections 12 through 15 contain information under the jurisdiction of other regulatory agencies, so OSHA does not enforce content in these sections, but the sections must be present on the SDS to be consistent with the GHS.

SDS Management

Managing for GHS

Managing SDSs in countries undergoing GHS adoption can be a challenge. For instance, in the United States, OSHA’s revision of the Hazard Communication Standard has resulted in a major safety data sheet churn that in time will result in a 100 percent turnover of companies’ active SDS libraries. Unfortunately, many manufacturers were delayed in meeting their chemical reclassification and authoring obligations under the GHS-modified rule, so many end-users are left with inventories that aren’t yet fully transitioned.

Electronic management of SDSs can help mitigate the impact this churn has on your company. The key to compliance is starting with a complete and accurate chemical inventory that includes an SDS for every chemical in use at your facility. Additional benefits to electronic SDS management include enhanced chemical management and environmental and regulatory reporting tools.

Learn more about the VelocityeEHS Chemical Management Solution.

Learn more about our On-Site Chemical Inventory Audit service.

SDS Training

Training for GHS

SDSs that conform to GHS guidelines may look very different from the safety data sheets your employees had been used to seeing. GHS styled SDSs contain new standardized elements in section 2 that are also found on GHS formatted labels. These elements include: signal words, hazard statements, pictograms and precautionary statements.

A key component of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard is training employees on where to find and how to read SDSs in your workplace. In the U.S., as part of the required training on HCS, which is now aligned with GHS, employees must be trained on the new SDS format, and they must continue to be trained on the older MSDS format for as long as that format exists in their library. VelocityEHS chemical management solutions offer a suite of on-demand training solutions that can help you ensure your staff is up-to-date and in compliance when it comes to workplace training.

Learn more about our on-demand Workplace Training solutions.

Learn more about our Compliance Education solutions.


Understanding the Differences

A safety data sheet or SDS is a document that accompanies a hazardous chemical and provides detailed information for the safe handling, use, storage and disposal of said chemical. SDSs are created by the chemical manufacturer, distributor or importer, along with safety labels, and provided to downstream users of the hazardous chemical.

For many decades, in the United States and Canada in particular, these documents were called material safety data sheets or MSDSs – those days are ending.

Called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), the new system is designed to knit together the world’s hazard communication standards into one coherent system. For instance, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) and Health Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) are being aligned with GHS.

The two major tenets of GHS are the standardization of chemical classification and the standardization of safety labels and safety data sheets. For most users of hazardous chemicals, the most obvious changes will be to labels and SDSs. For instance, SDSs under GHS are formatted into 16 strictly ordered sections.

Differences between an MSDS, an SDS and an SDS that is GHS compliant

There is no difference between an MSDS and an SDS, as both are generic terms for safety data sheets. A GHS compliant safety data sheet is an SDS but not an MSDS.

Did you get that?

An SDS can be an MSDS, but an MSDS is not an SDS. And calling a document an SDS does not make it GHS compliant. In order for an SDS to be GHS compliant, it must have 16 sections in the proper order with the relevant information for each section. A GHS compliant SDS is similar to the ANSI Z400.1 MSDS with a couple of key differences.

You can learn more about GHS compliant SDSs by visiting the GHS Answer Center.

To further complicate the issue, a GHS compliant SDS is not necessarily compliant with all local, state, national or global regulations under which your business may operate. Luckily, help is available. VelocityEHS Chemical Management solutions help businesses of all sizes improve the management of chemical products and safety data sheets which today, are still largely underserved by paper-based SDS management systems and processes.

Prior to the widespread use of the Internet, safety professionals managed MSDSs using three‐ring binders. Today, SDS management via paper‐based binders is costly, cumbersome, and often leads to noncompliance with regulations like OSHA’s HCS. As a result, HCS violations are some of the most frequently cited OSHA violations, costing businesses millions in penalties, fines and litigation expenses.

Our Solution

VelocityEHS has developed revolutionary EH&S compliance management solutions that are available on-demand via the cloud. We offer online SDS access, management and employee Right-to-Know compliance solutions. Our industry leading online database of SDSs contains millions of indexed, manufacturer-original SDS documents. Unlike competitors, our database is dynamic, with more than 80,000 new and/or updated safety data sheets added each week.

We combine access to our database with easy-to-use safety data sheet deployment and inventory management tools. This results in more cost-effective compliance with HCS, Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requirements, the European Commission’s REACH regulation, as well as the more recently adopted elements of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Benefits of the Cloud

10 Reasons to Manage SDSs via the Cloud:

  1. 24/7/365 SDS Access – Access your SDSs and management tools everywhere you have a web connection.
  2. Access to Millions of SDSs – We have the leading online database of indexed and searchable SDSs with thousands of new and updated SDSs added each week.
  3. Ease of Compliance – Easily backup your SDS library to meet OSHA and WHMIS hazard communication requirements.
  4. User Friendly – Get started right away in a familiar online environment.
  5. User Driven SDS Products – Input from thousands of safety professionals drives our solutions, put their collective wisdom and experience to work for you.
  6. Solutions to Meet Every Need – Regardless of size, number of facilities or budget, we have an SDS solution just right for you.
  7. ROI – Managing SDSs electronically reduces time and costs compared to traditional paper-based systems.
  8. Low-Cost of Ownership – No software to install and you get immediate access to new features, updates and releases.
  9. Compliance Services – Our compliance experts are available to help you build, maintain and verify that your SDS inventory is up-to-date and compliant.
  10. Dedicated Support – Our compliance experts are here to serve you with product training, general and technical support, and more.

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