The 16 Sections of Safety Data Sheets [SDS] Explained

Safety data sheets (SDS) are generally physical papers providing safety information relating to hazardous chemicals in the workplace. This includes pure, mixed and branded chemical substances.

This information on safety data sheets includes the physical, health and environmental hazards of each chemical as well as how to safely store, handle and transport them.

How many sections in SDS?

Following GHS guidelines, SDS must include 16 specific sections which are grouped into four categories: 1) general information about the chemical, 2) technical and scientific information, 3) information governed by other agencies and 4) other.

In this article we’ll explain each category and what is required in each specific section of a safety data sheet.

SDS Sections 1-8: General Information

The first eight sections of an SDS contain information most needed for quick access. Examples of information found in Sections 1-8 include, identifying the chemical and its composition, how it should be handled and stored, exposure limits, etc.

Section 1: Identification

Section 1 of an SDS is designed to tell you what the chemical is, how it should and should not be used, and how to contact the supplier.

Required information includes product identifier, common names/synonyms, recommended use, restrictions on use and the name, address, phone number and emergency phone number of the manufacturer or distributor.

Section 2: Hazard(s) Identification.

SDS section 2 warns you of risks associated with the chemical on that particular SDS. Required information includes hazard classification, signal word, hazard statements, pictograms, precautionary statements and descriptions of unclassified hazard.

In the case of mixtures, the percentage that consists of an ingredient with unknown acute toxicity should also be disclosed.

Section 3: Composition/Information on Ingredients.

The third section on an SDS tells you exactly what the product is made of, including impurities and stabilizing additives. This is important because impurities and stabilizing additives have their own classifications and contribute to the overall classification of the chemical substance.

For all substances, SDS Section 3 requires: chemical name, common name/synonyms, Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number and other unique attributes. If the following criteria is met, then the chemical name and exact percentage (concentration) are required:

  • The chemical includes additional ingredients classified as health hazards
  • The additional ingredients are present in an amount greater than the concentration limits or exhibit a health risk below the concentration limits

Percentage ranges can be used on safety data sheets for mixtures with batch-to-batch variation, a group of substantially similar mixtures or if there is a trade secret claim. If exact percentages are withheld due to a trade secret claim, a statement to that effect is required in Section 3.

Section 4: First Aid Measures

Information required for SDS Section 4 includes a description of symptoms and effects (both acute and delayed). First aid instructions must be included for exposure via inhalation, skin and eye contact and ingestion as well as recommendations for immediate medical care or special treatment when needed.

Section 5: Firefighting Measures

This part of an SDS tells you what to do in case of fire caused by the chemical. Required information includes, appropriate/not appropriate extinguishing equipment, special equipment/precautions for firefighters and advice on specific hazards that develop from the chemical during the fire.

Section 6: Accidental Release Measures

SDS Section 6 tells you what to do should the chemical be spilled, leaked or otherwise released. Required information includes emergency procedures, protective equipment and appropriate cleanup and containment methods.

Section 7: Handling and Storage

Section 7 on your SDS provides a guideline for safely handling and storing chemicals. Requirements include information for safely handling the chemical to minimize release into the environment, general hygiene, as well as conditions for safe storage, specific storage needs and storage incompatibilities.

Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection

SDS Section 8 is designed to help you avoid personal exposure to chemicals in quantities or time periods longer than can be done so safely. It lists the maximum amount of personal exposure that is considered safe and the protective measures that should be used to safely handle the chemical.

Information required for protection includes appropriate engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE) and any special material and/or resistance requirements for PPE.

Information required for exposure includes:

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
  • Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)
  • Any other limits recommended for safety
open avery heavyduty sds binder filled with safety data sheets and dividers shown on a rough gray surface

Sections 9-11: Technical & Scientific Information

Safety data sheets organize technical and scientific information into Sections 9 through 11 (and sometimes Section 16).

The information required in these particular sections of the safety data sheet is very specific and detailed and they cannot be left blank.

If there is no relevant information for a required element in any of these sections, it must be stated on the SDS in the appropriate field.

Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties

This section is where the chemical’s characteristics are listed on the SDS. The minimum required fields include:

  • Appearance (physical state, color, etc.)
  • Auto-ignition temperature
  • Decomposition temperature
  • Evaporation rate
  • Flammability (solid, gas)
  • Flash point
  • Initial boiling point and boiling range
  • Melting point/freezing point
  • Odor
  • Odor threshold
  • Partition coefficient: n-octanol/water
  • pH
  • Relative density
  • Solubility(ies)
  • Upper/lower flammability or explosive limits
  • Vapor density
  • Vapor pressure
  • Viscosity

Section 10: Stability and Reactivity

SDS Section 10 tells you how stable the chemical is and the likelihood of hazardous reactions. Required information is divided into three clear sections:

  • Specific test data for the chemical, class or family.
  • Chemical stability. Whether the chemical is stable or unstable (at regular room temperature) while in storage and being handled, any stabilizers that may be needed and any changes in physical appearance that indicate safety issues.
  • Possibility of hazardous reactions, conditions to be avoided, incompatible materials and any known or anticipated hazardous decomposition products that could be produced because of use, storage or heating.

Section 11: Toxicological Information

This section of an SDS provides you with health risks associated with poisoning from the chemical. Information required includes routes of exposure, related symptoms, acute and chronic health effects, numerical measures of toxicity and whether or not the chemical is considered carcinogenic.

Sections 12-15: Information Governed by Other Agencies

It’s important to note that OSHA requires safety data sheets to contain Sections 12-15 to uphold GHS guidelines, but does not enforce the content included in those sections.

While not mandated by OSHA, content in SDS Sections 12-15 is enforced and governed by other agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Section 12: Ecological Information (non-mandatory)

SDS Section 12 includes information helpful for evaluating the environmental impact if the chemical(s) were released into the environment. Examples of this type of information include bioaccumulation potential, ozone layer depletion and groundwater absorption studies.

Section 13: Disposal Considerations (non-mandatory).

This SDS section tells you how to safely dispose of, recycle or reclaim the chemical and/or its container. Examples include appropriate disposal containers, disposal methods, physical and chemical properties that may affect disposal, language discouraging sewage disposal and any special precautions for landfills or incineration.

Section 14: Transport Information (non-mandatory)

SDS Section 14 provides information for shipping and transporting hazardous chemicals by road, air, rail or sea. This type of information can include UN number and shipping name, transport hazard classes, packing group number, environmental hazard, bulk transport guidance and special precautions associated with transport.

Section 15: Regulatory Information (non-mandatory)

Section 15 includes any additional safety, health, and environmental regulations not indicated anywhere else on the SDS sheet. Regional regulatory information is a common example of this type of information.

Section 16: Other Information

Section 16 is for communicating when the most recent update was made, and any other useful information not included anywhere else in the SDS. Information to record here includes when the SDS was prepared, the last known revision date, and where changes were made in the most recent revision.

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Please note, the contents of this article and related articles on are for informational purposes only, are general in nature, and are not intended to and should not be relied upon or construed as a legal opinion or legal advice regarding any specific issue or factual circumstance.