Skip to content

What is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?


A Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formally known as a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), is designed to provide the necessary information required to help users to protect the health of humans and the environment. Users are categorised as companies or individuals who use a substance, either on its own or in a mixture, in their industrial or professional activities.

A Safety Data Sheet is intended for both the workers who handle the substance and for those responsible for safety. The format of Safety Data Sheets are defined in the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals) Regulation and as such follow a specific 16 section layout.

Please note that although many SDS will include a disclaimer or notice to the reader, such statements do not absolve the legal obligations of the supplier to provide accurate and useful information.

Section 1 – Identification

The name of the substance, or for a mixture, the trade name or designation of the mixture:

  • Other relevant identifiers such as trade names, alternative names, and EC, CAS (Chemical Abstract Service) or Index numbers according to Annex VI to the CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) Regulation
  • The uses the chemical is intended for; and uses advised against
  • Details about the supplier of the safety data sheet
  • Emergency telephone number

If the substance has been registered under REACH, Section 1.1 will include a REACH registration number. This number nearly always starts with ‘01’ if the product is a mixture, the registration numbers of the substances present in the mixture will be in Section 3.2.

Section 2 – Hazard(s) identification

  • The hazard classification of the chemical
  • How the chemical should be labelled (hazard pictograms, hazard statements and safety advice)
  • Any additional hazard information not resulting in classification and, if relevant, why the substance is a PBT (Persistent, Bio-accumulative and Toxic) or vPvB (very Persistent and very Bio-accumulative)

The information on classification and labelling given in this section must be consistent with that on the actual labels for the substance in question. If the information isn’t consistent, contact the supplier immediately and confirm which information applies.

Classification and labelling of chemicals is undergoing global changes. In the EU, the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation is in force and implements the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System (GHS). 

Section 3 – Composition/Information on ingredients

Information is provided on the composition of the product. If it is a substance, the information is provided in Section 3.1. If it is a mixture, the information is in Section 3.2.

The information is usually provided in a table. It includes the name and/or trade name, and other identifiers (such as CAS number, registration number etc.) of the substances, ingredients or impurities which:

  • Contribute to the overall hazard classification; or
  • Are present at concentrations above certain levels of concern; or
  • Have occupational exposure limits

For mixtures, the concentration or concentration range at which the constituent is present is provided. A supplier can include non-hazardous constituents or components here, if choosing to list the full composition of the substance or mixture.

Section 4 – First-aid measures

Provides information on:

  • The first aid measures to be applied in case of accidental exposure to the substance
  • The symptoms and effects of exposure
  • Indications on whether urgent or special medical attention (antidote, medical monitoring) or other measures (personal protective equipment for first-aiders) are needed

The first aid measures must be described in such a way that they can be understood and carried out by an untrained person, and should be consistent with the precautionary statements in Section 2.2.

It is useful to take the safety data sheet with you when seeking medical care after accidental exposure to the substance. Additional information provided specifically to medical personnel may be given under a heading such as “Notes for the doctor”. This information may contain special medical terms which may be difficult to understand for non-medical personnel.

Section 5 – Fire-fighting measures

Information on:

  • The firefighting measures to be applied in case of a fire involving the substance
  • The possible hazards arising from the substance in case of fire (such as hazardous combustion products or vapour cloud explosion risks)

This section may also contain specific information for firefighters, including special protective equipment to be used. Pay special attention to the unsuitable extinguishing media described in Section 5.1. Their use may cause chemical or physical reactions resulting in an additional potential hazard. For example, some substances emit flammable or toxic gases when in contact with water. 

Section 6 – Accidental release measures

Recommendations are provided on how to deal with accidental spills or leaks of the substance to prevent or minimise further adverse effects. Recommendations include:

  • Containment, recovery and cleaning methods
  • Personal precautions to be used during these actions

This section may also refer to Sections 8 and 13, to avoid repeating information which is relevant to potential accidental release. If references are made to other sections, those sections should be adequately completed.

Section 7 – Handling and storage

How to handle and store substances safely and to avoid potentially dangerous incidents, the information is appropriate for the uses identified in Section 1.2, and to the properties of the substance (as given in particular in Sections 9 and 10). It should be consistent with any exposure scenario provided.

Advice on safe handling practices includes:

  • Containment and measures to prevent fire as well as aerosol and dust generation
  • Avoiding hazards due to incompatibility of substances or mixtures
  • Reducing the release of the substance or mixture to the environment, such as avoiding spills or keeping away from drains
  • Implementing good occupational hygiene practices

Advice on safe storage practices includes:

  • Managing risks associated with explosive atmospheres, corrosive conditions, flammability hazards etc.
  • Controlling the effects of the surroundings, such as the weather, humidity, vibration etc.
  • Maintaining the integrity of the substance or mixture
  • Other advice, such as ventilation requirements, quantity limits etc.

In addition to information given in this section, relevant information may also be found in Section 8.

Section 8 – Exposure controls/Personal protection

Important information on exposure limit values (Section 8.1) and the measures to control exposure (Section 8.2). The information is appropriate for the properties of the chemical and all intended uses (as described in Section 1.2 or in the exposure scenarios that may be annexed to the safety data sheet).

Section 9 – Physical and chemical properties

The basic physical and chemical properties of the substance or mixture (such as appearance, odour, pH, boiling point etc.) which are relevant to the classification and the hazards

  • Physical and chemical properties which are not relevant or where no information is available, and the reason why. 

Section 10 – Stability and reactivity 

Information on:

  • The stability of the substance or mixture
  • Hazardous reactions that could occur under certain conditions of use or if released into the environment
  • Conditions to avoid
  • Incompatible materials
  • Hazardous decomposition products

The hazards associated with stability and reactivity are related to the physical and chemical properties provided in Section 9. The normal practice is to use Section 9 to indicate measurable properties derived from test procedures, whereas Section 10 gives (qualitative) descriptions of possible consequences.

Section 11 – Toxicological information

This section is intended primarily for medical professionals, occupational health and safety professionals, and toxicologists, and gives detailed information on:

  • The likely routes (inhalation, ingestion, or absorption contact) of exposure
  • The symptoms caused by the physical, chemical, and toxicological characteristics of the substance, mixture and/or known by-products
  • The immediate and delayed adverse effects, including chronic effects, from short and long-term exposure

You should also find a description of how the substance was tested for health hazards and the test results. The content of this section provides the basis for the classification and risk management measures given in the safety data sheet. The information in Sections 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 and 15 should be consistent with the toxicological information provided here.

A large quantity of information may be provided under this section, particularly in an SDS for a mixture. Ideally, it will be laid out with a clear separation between the data that applies to a mixture as a whole (where applicable) and that for individual (component) substances.

Section 12 – Ecological information

Summarised information on:

  • The effects of the substance on the environment if released
  • What happens to the substance after its release into the environment (its environmental fate)
  • How the substance was tested for toxicity, persistence and degradability, bio-accumulative potential, and mobility in soil, together with the test results
  • The results of a PBT (Persistent, Bio-accumulative and Toxic) and vPvB (very Persistent and very Bio-accumulative) assessment, if one has been carried out as part of a chemical safety assessment. You can find the definition of PBT and vPvB in the ECHA-term (The European Chemicals Agency).

The content of this section provides the basis for the classification and risk management measures given in the safety data sheet. The information in Sections 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, and 15 should be consistent with the ecological information provided here.

This information may assist in handling spills, and evaluating waste treatment practices, control of release, accidental release measures and transport.

Section 13 – Disposal considerations

  • The proper waste management of the substance or mixture
  • The appropriate treatment methods for both the substance or mixture waste

If the waste is likely to include any contaminated packaging waste, advice on treatment methods for contaminated packaging should also be provided as appropriate. Waste disposal should be in accordance with local, national and European legislation.

Section 14 – Transportation information

  • Classification for transportation of the substance or mixture by road, rail, sea, inland waterways or air (UN number and associated detail)
  • Additional information where relevant, such as tunnel restriction codes or indication of a marine pollutant
  • Special precautions for the user (this may refer to Section 8 (Exposure Controls/Personal Protection of the SDS))
  • Information on transport in bulk by sea or inland waterways, when cargoes are intended to be carried in bulk according to the following IMO (International Maritime Organization) instruments: Annex II of Marpol and the IBC Code

This section provides information on the transport classification applicable for each of the UN Model Regulations governing transport in Europe.

Section 15 – Regulatory information

  • The safety, health, and environmental legislation specific to the substance, which is not already indicated elsewhere in the SDS
  • Whether a CSA (Chemical Safety Assessment) has been carried out

The relevant legislation may include any national and/or regional regulatory information on the substance, where it is being placed on the market, as well as European legislation, such as the young workers or pregnant workers, plant protection and biocides, water framework etc. When a CSA has been carried out, for hazardous substances registered at 10 tonnes or more per year, the registrant must also prepare exposure scenarios as part of their assessment. If a substance is subject to any restrictions or to authorisation, it should be indicated in this section. 

Section 16 – Other information

Relevant information that has not been included in the previous sections is provided here. This might include:

  • Changes from a previous SDS version. If you need an explanation of the changes then contact your supplier
  • A legend to any abbreviations and acronyms used
  • Key literature references and sources for data
  • For mixtures, the procedure used to derive the classification
  • Relevant risk phrases, hazard statements, safety phrases and/or precautionary statements (number and full text)
  • Advice on training, for those handling the substance
  • An index table or table of contents for any attached exposure scenarios

Find out more about how we work for the environment.