MSDS vs SDS Explained: Where to Find, How to Read, & What to Look For
Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) can be intimidating to first time users, and even veterans, who may be using a new or different cleaning product for the first time.
It is important for anyone handling or using commercial cleaning supplies to become familiarized with SDSs. Understanding how to read and apply the information on a Safety Data Sheet will allow you to work more safely and to do your job better.
This article will clarify the sections of a safety data sheet and allow you to become more familiar with the format and contents of one.
MSDS vs SDS: Are Safety Data Sheets the same as Material Safety Data Sheets?
SDS or Safety Data Sheets, formally known as MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) are the internationally recognized format for communicating the use, handling, and storage of hazardous products.
In 2012, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) revised their guidelines to align with the Globally Harmonized System to allow for hazardous chemical information to be presented to users in a consistent, uniform, and easy-to-understand way. Prior to revision, MSDS could vary from product, source, and country making the guidelines hard to follow and very inconsistent.
Manufacturers, distributors, or importers of the product are now required to follow the new 16-section SDS format which presents information in a consistent way.
Where To Find Safety Data Sheets
OSHA requires that Safety Data Sheets for all hazardous chemicals are readily accessible to all employees during every shift.
Safety Data Sheets can be hard copies kept in binders or digitally maintained versions on a computer. Either hard copy or online storage is acceptable as long as employees are trained on how to access the files and can easily get to the information in their respective work area.
It is critical that employers keep SDS sheets:
- Clearly visible
- Easily accessible at all times
SDSs should be updated every time a significant change has been made to the chemical compound or new information becomes available regarding the hazardous chemical.
Employers should continually source up-to-date SDSs to protect the safety of employees and building occupants, and to remain OSHA compliant. Failing to remain OSHA compliant can result in penalties, including fines over $13,000 per violation.
How To Read A Safety Data Sheet
As a custodian or someone who handles chemicals in a facility, you should take the time to read and understand a SDS sheet any time a new chemical is brought into a cleaning procedure. It is also important to review a SDS sheet when you start a new assignment with commercial cleaning supplies that you have never used before.
Safety Data Sheets will provide information on how to protect yourself from potential adverse health effects, how to correctly handle the chemical, avoid possible dangers, properly dispose of the chemical, and more.
It is critical to the safety of yourself and building occupants to handle chemicals with caution and follow the proper protocols.
Reading the entire SDS sheet can help avoid accidents and potential injuries from improper chemical usage.
All SDS sheets have 16 sections. Each will be labeled with the following headers:
Section 1. Identification
Section 2. Hazard(s) Identification
Section 4. First-Aid Measures
Section 3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
Section 5. Fire-Fighting Measures
Section 6. Accidental Release Measures
Section 7. Handling and Storage
Section 8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
Section 9. Physical and Chemical Properties
Section 10. Stability and Reactivity
Section 11. Toxicological Information
Section 12. Ecological Information
Section 13. Disposal Considerations
Section 14. Transport Information
Section 15. Regulatory Information
Section 16. Other Information
Although all 16 sections are important to read and understand, the information below clarifies the sections that are important to understand before, during, and after using a hazardous product.
Before handling a product you should be aware of the risks associated with the product and what necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed to protect yourself.
To find an overview of the main hazards associated with using the chemical, reference Section 2, Hazard(s) Identification. This SDS section outlines possible hazards when working with the chemical.
PPE is needed to prevent injury or illness from accidental exposure to the chemical. Section 8, Exposure Controls/Personal Protection, lists the necessary equipment for handling the chemical properly. PPE that may be recommended can include: safety goggles, impervious gloves, respirator, or enclosed footwear.
Proper Product Use and Storage
For information about using and storing a product, you should reference Section 7, Handling and Storage. This section will tell you what chemicals, if any, can be used with the product, how to minimize the release of the chemical into the environment, and provide advice on general hygiene practices. For example, you should not eat or drink near toxic chemicals to avoid accidental ingestion. Smoking in work areas near flammable chemicals is also prohibited.
This section will also give recommendations on how to safely store the product when you are not using it. Some products will have certain temperature and ventilation requirements.
Accident or Injury
Sometimes injury or illness will occur, and it is critical that initial care follows the recommended guidelines. Section 4, First-Aid Measures, describes the symptoms or effects a person may experience from being exposed to the chemical. This section also provides the necessary first-aid instructions for each type of possible exposure.
After using a product, some commercial cleaning supplies will need to be disposed of in a particular way. Section 13. Disposal Considerations, will provide specific guidelines on how and where they can be properly disposed.
For more information on Safety Data Sheets, visit OSHA.
Safety Data Sheets provide the starting point for understanding how to properly prepare, use, and store commercial cleaning supplies.
It is important to read and understand the Safety Data Sheet for each chemical before use.
Up-to-date Safety Data Sheets need to be provided in visible and easily accessible areas for all hazardous chemicals. Adhering to OSHA guidelines will help ensure employees are following the proper product application and procedures for chemical usage to reduce accidental employee and occupant injury, and increase building cleanliness.
If you are not sure if your operation is OSHA compliant, contact an EBP Specialist.
Subscribe to our blog for more useful tips from industry experts, answers to common questions, insights on the latest trends and creative solutions to help your business shine.