18 February 2019

Requirements for Safety Data Sheets (SDS)


A Safety Data Sheet or SDS documents the properties and hazards of a chemical.  It is the formal way for a manufacturer or importer to pass on the information users need to know about the chemical.

The main role of an SDS is passing on the work, health and safety requirements of a chemical for its workplace use, storage, transport, disposal or emergency response.  The SDS can include useful environmental information as well.  SDS are normally for hazardous goods, but can also be written for other materials to declare they are not hazardous.

Previously known as MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets), the name changed to SDS with the change to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).  The GHS is managed by the United Nations and became mandatory in Australia at the start of 2017.  SafeWork Australia has a Code of Practice for the "Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals" which forms the basis of the information below.

A manufacturer or importer of a hazardous chemical is required to prepare an SDS for the chemical under the WHS Regulation.  SDS must be reviewed every 5 years (while they are in production) to ensure they remain current.  Any person who is likely to be affected by a hazardous chemical that has been manufactured or imported in the last 5 years can ask the manufacturer or importer to provide the current SDS.

While non-hazardous chemicals do not require a SDS, if one is prepared it should be in accordance with the Code of Practice as far as is reasonably practicable.

A SDS sheet must:

  • be in English, with language that is simple and precise, avoiding jargon, acronyms and abbreviations
  • state the date it was prepared or last reviewed
  • have numbered pages with an indication of the end of the SDS
  • state the name, Australian address and business telephone number of the manufacturer or the importer
  • state an Australian business emergency telephone number


The GHS brought a standard structure for SDS, which is a great improvement over the variable arrangement MSDS had previously.  The structure includes the following sections with the following information within each section:

Section 1—Identification: Product identifier and chemical identity 

  • The product identifier, as it appears on the container's label and any other means of identification
  • The recommended use and a brief description of what the chemical does
  • The name, Australian address and business telephone of the manufacturer or importer
  • An all hours Australian emergency telephone (if this is a poisons information center, the center must have a copy of the SDS)

Section 2—Hazard(s) identification  

  • The chemical's GHS Hazard classes and categories with warning information for the hazards
  • The criteria for classifying chemicals is also taken from the GHS (classification is complex, but on a simplistic level applies criteria such as a pH < 2 or pH >11.5 is corrosive)
  • The Hazard classes are:
    • Physical Hazards classes - Explosives, Flammable Gases, Aerosols, Oxidizing Gases, Gases Under Pressure, Flammable Liquids, Flammable Solids, Self-Reactive Substances, Pyrophoric Liquids, Pyrophoric Solids, Self-Heating Substances, Substances which, in contact with water emit flammable gases, Oxidizing Liquids, Oxidizing Solids, Organic Peroxides, Corrosive to Metals, Desensitized explosives
    • Health Hazards classes - Acute Toxicity, Skin Corrosion/Irritation, Serious Eye Damage/Eye, Irritation, Respiratory or Skin Sensitization, Germ Cell Mutagenicity, Carcinogenicity, Reproductive Toxicology, Target Organ Systemic Toxicity - Single Exposure, Target Organ Systemic Toxicity - Repeated Exposure, Aspiration Toxicity
    • Environmental Hazards classes - Hazardous to Aquatic Environment, Hazardous to the Ozone Layer

Section 3—Composition and information on ingredients

  • The ingredients of the chemical, including impurities and stabilising additives that contribute to the classification as hazardous
  • Names are not required for those ingredients that meet only physical and/or environmental hazard classifications, or for non-hazardous ingredients
  • The proportion of the hazardous chemical, but if the concentration is commercially sensitive it can be within broad ranges (<10%, 10–<30%, 30–60%,  >60%)
  • The proportions should add up to 100%, even if an estimate of non-hazardous ingredients is used

Section 4—First aid measures 

  • Initial care for a person affected by the chemical for each route of exposure
  • Antidotes, if they are available
  • Symptoms caused by the exposure, including delayed effects
  • Medical attention and special treatment

Section 5—Firefighting measures

  • Suitable extinguishing equipment
  • Specific fire related hazards (such as explosive potential, toxic fumes)
  • Special protective equipment and precautions for firefighters

Section 6—Accidental release measures

  • Personal precautions and protective equipment in the event of a spill, leak, venting or other uncontrolled release
  • Emergency procedures 
  • Environmental precautions
  • Methods and materials for containment and clean up

Section 7—Handling and storage, including how the chemical may be safely used 

  • Precautions for safe handling 
  • Conditions for safe storage, including any incompatibilities 

Section 8—Exposure controls and personal protection 

  • Exposure controls to eliminate or minimise personal exposure in the workplace
  • Biological monitoring for people exposed to the chemical
  • Engineering controls (such as ventilation, enclosed systems)
  • Individual protection measures (such as eye, face, skin, respiratory, thermal protection)

Section 9—Physical and chemical properties 

  • appearance (physical state, colour etc.) 
  • auto-ignition & decomposition temperature
  • evaporation rate
  • flammability (solid, gas) & flash point
  • initial boiling point and boiling range
  • melting point/freezing point
  • odour, odour threshold
  • partition coefficient: n-octanol/water
  • pH
  • relative density
  • solubility
  • upper/lower flammability or explosive limits
  • vapour density & pressure
  • viscosity
Where there is no information or data about specific characteristics it should be stated. Leaving blank spaces or ‘N/A’ should be avoided.

Section 10—Stability and reactivity 

  • Reactivity hazards, including the conditions under which the hazardous reactions may occur
  • Stability, under normal ambient storage and handling condition
  • Hazardous reactions related to excess pressure or heat, or other hazardous conditions
  • Conditions to avoid, including temperature, pressure, shock, static discharge, vibrations or other physical stresses
  • Incompatible materials 
  • Hazardous decomposition products 

Section 11—Toxicological information 

  • acute toxicity
  • skin corrosion/irritation
  • serious eye damage/irritation
  • respiratory or skin sensitisation
  • germ cell mutagenicity
  • carcinogenicity
  • reproductive toxicity
  • Specific Target Organ Toxicity (STOT)
  • single exposure
  • Specific Target Organ Toxicity (STOT)
  • repeated exposure
  • aspiration hazard
If data for any hazard is not available, they should still be listed with a statement that data is not available.  Statements like ‘Toxic’ or ‘Safe if properly used’ do not provide sufficient description.  Phrases such as ‘not applicable’ and ‘not relevant’, or leaving blank spaces in the health effects section should not be used.

Information on all routes of exposure should be provided as it is not possible to predict how a chemical will be used in a workplace or the most likely exposure route.  Where information on a mixture is not available, information on the toxicological properties of the hazardous ingredients above the concentration cut-off (in Section 3) should be provided.  

Section 12—Ecological information  

This is the section of the SDS which has specific environmental information and often focusses on spill response.  It should address:
  • Ecotoxicity - based on tests performed on aquatic and/or terrestrial organisms, including fish, crustaceans, algae, aquatic plants, soil micro/macro-organisms, birds, bees, plants and sewage treatment plants.
  • Persistence and degradability - potential for the chemical (or hazardous ingredients) to degrade through biodegradation, oxidation or hydrolosis 
  • Bioaccumulative potential - potential for the chemical (or hazardous ingredients) to accumulate in biota and possibly pass through the food chain
  • Mobility in soil - potential for a hazardous chemical (or hazardous ingredients) released into the environment to move through soils or to groundwater
  • Other adverse effects - could include ozone depletion potential, photochemical ozone creation potential, endocrine-disrupting potential and global warming potential 
If information is not available, this should be stated.

Section 13—Disposal considerations 

  • Disposal methods - safe and environmentally-preferred disposal, recycling or reclamation of the chemical and its container, including precautions for sewage, incineration or landfill   

Section 14—Transport information 

  • UN number - a four-digit identification number for the substance or article as listed in the Australian Dangerous Good (ADG) Code
  • Proper shipping name or technical name - from the ADG Code, including for hazardous chemicals the proper shipping name or technical name even if it is not the product identifier
  • Transport hazard class - the transport class/division assigned to the chemical according to the predominant hazards that the chemical presents under the ADG Code
  • Packing group number - found in the ADG Code
  • Environmental hazards for transport purposes - indicate whether the hazardous chemical is a known marine pollutant according to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code or Annex 1 of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
  • Special precautions for user
  • Additional information 
  • Hazchem or emergency action code - as specified in the ADG Code

Section 15—Regulatory information  

  • Other regulatory information not provided elsewhere in the SDS, which might include other acts and international protocols or conventions

Section 16—Any other relevant information

  • Other information may include revisions made to the latest version of the SDS, or abbreviations and acronyms used in the SDS