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Here are 7 things I suspect anyone interested in Safety Data Sheets - or better results - may find helpful. 

  1. Information contained in the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) is confidential.

Absolutely not. This is still one of the top false »facts« I hear on meetings.

The truth is that no confidentiality may be imposed on information that should be included in the Safety Data Sheet. Just one thing can remain “concealed” in the SDS and that's the secrecy of the chemical name, and even that only in certain cases.

For example, if the product contains hazardous substances which exceed certain concentrations (usually 0.1% or 1%), we must indicate them under item 3 of the Safety Data Sheet. You cannot just conceal them. 

  1. Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is intended for Chemical inspection or other regulatory bodies only

Actually Safety Data Sheets are a relevant source of information for those who deal with chemicals. These include safety engineers, chemicals consultants, doctors, transporters and storage managers.

Section 8 of an SDS is of key importance for a professional user, such as a safety engineer. This section indicates protective equipment (protective mask, filter, work shoes, clothes etc.). It's also indicated under this section, to which substances workers are exposed and the limits for safe usage (e.g. what is still a safe concentration of acetone in the air).

A doctor, for instance, needs SDSs for preparing a risk assessment for a workplace. In this case, SDS data present the basis for the preparation of such an assessment/document.

Those interested in waste and waste management, can find relevant information under Section 13. Section 14 is important for transporters, so they are informed about the type of chemicals they are transporting.

All information is collected in one safety data sheet and is therefore intended for various experts (and not merely inspectors, which is often the popular belief people share). 

  1. We didn't prepare the Safety Data Sheet so we're not respomsible for it

Wrong. Here's what it says in Guidace on the compilation of safety data sheets (SDS):

“In all cases, suppliers of a substance or a mixture which requires a safety data sheet have the responsibility for its contents, even though they may not have prepared the safety data sheet themselves."

You're maybe thinking that you're not a supplier. But hang on. Let's look at the definition before we jump to any conclussions.

A supplier is, simply put, everyone involved in the supply chain.

Thus, your supplier has responsibility towards you. And you are primarily responsible to those to whom you have sold a substance or mixture. A person supplying the substance or mixture is thus responsible for the content of the safety data sheet.

This means that the supplier is responsible even if he or she did not prepare or compile the safety data sheet (for example, a direct translation of the original). The basic principle is, when you hand out the safety data sheet, you are responsible for what is written on it.

So you should know (or get informed about) what you are handing out. 

  1. SDD translation was done carefully and to the best of your abilities

You certaily had good intentions but does that relieve you from the responsibility?

Unfortunately no because the legislation requires you to know what you hand out. This also means that you should know the content of the safety data sheet and know how to defend its contents.

This part referring to the responsibility, is written in the second part of the Guidance, which says:

“In such cases, the information provided by their suppliers is clearly a useful and relevant source of information for them to use when compiling their own safety data sheets.”

The key part that is most commonly overlooked, is that it is only a useful and appropriate source of information. Nothing else.

Therefore, if you translated the safety data sheet, you remain responsible for its contents. 

  1. We only rewrote the information information that was already in the document.

This is similar to the mistake above.

If you rewrite the informaton you still remain responsible for its contents. There's a simple reason for that. By only rewriting the information you don't verify the accuracy of the information. What's more you can unintentionally include errors which may have existed in the previous safety data sheet.

So from obligations' (and legal authourities') point of view you didn't do everything in your power to detect errors and eliminate them. 

  1. Product's labels are marketing material and separate from SDS

False. The content on the label must always correspond to information on Safety Data Sheet. Though it might seem that labels include only marketing it's not so.

Don't get me wrong. It’s fine to put marketing material on label. Just remember that you also need to include the necessary legal information such as hazard statements. For that you need to look into the Safety Data Sheet for that product.

Including both pieces of information is making consumer aware of potential dangers (not just benefits) before using that product.

Here are a couple of other mistakes when it comes to labels:

  • Using different names on the label and the safety data sheet for the same product.
  • Black and white GHS hazard pictograms instead of coloured ones.
  • Label where the text is too small to read.
  • Shrinking the size of GHS hazard pictograms to gain additional space for marketing text.
  • Horizontally oriented text on a vertically positioned product.
  • Names of dangerous substances not translated in local languages.

These mistakes concerning labels are typical sales thinking which get a lot of companies in trouble. 

  1. We don't need to udate Safety Data Sheets because they are static documents

I've heard this one numerous times: »We did what was required from us and now we're on the safe side«. Not so.

Three are at least three factors influence the update of safety sheets (and labels).

First, the product composition can change.

Just think of the last economic crisis when companies searched for cheaper materials and product recepture changed several times in a year.

Second, safety data sheets for product substance recepture can also change. The fact is that substances are constantly studied and thus being newly categorised.

Here's a simple example of boric acid.

Years ago, boric acid was present in many products for generic use (it was even used in cosmetic products) and was categorised as non-hazardous.

Then, as more evidence about the substance became known, it became classified as very hazardous – toxic for reproduction – and as a result, a new safety data sheet for boric acid had to be made. In addition, safety data sheets had to be made again for all products (mixtures) containing boric acid.

The third factor is the one that most people know – change in legislation. Safety data sheets must be adapted to legislation changes. In the past few years, the most known change was the transition from DPD to CLP legislation, which introduced a new system of labelling and classification.

If a safety data sheet ever was a static document, it hasn't been such a document for quite some time now.

Now if these 7 points make sense to you, please don't just sit there nodding.

Apply these lessons sitematically and you might well become more succefull when it comes to serving your clients better. And you'll be happier as achievement is the key to happiness.

But if you don't have the time or energy to do that than we can definetly help.

Just get in touch and we'll help you with your Safety Data Sheets.

Information on this blog is prepared with utmost care, but it is not about (chemical) consulting, and the provider does not assume any responsibility or liability for the correctness, accuracy and up-to-dateness of published content. If you need advice for a specific case, you can write to us at
SDS | April 19, 2019

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