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7.3 Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are an important part of any laboratory safety program in communicating information to chemical users. SDSs provide useful information such as: 

  • The identity of the chemical substance. 
  • Physical and chemical characteristics. 
  • Physical and health hazards. 
  • Primary routes of entry. 
  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). 
  • Carcinogenic and reproductive health status. 
  • Precautions for safe handling and use (including PPE). 
  • Spill response procedures. 
  • Emergency and first aid questions. 
  • Date the SDS was prepared.
  • Any chemical shipment received should be accompanied by an SDS (unless one has been shipped with a previous order). If you do not receive an SDS with your shipment, check the chemical manufacturers website first (or call the manufacturer directly), or check the EHS SDS website for links to SDSs, or contact EHS at 607-255-8200 to request assistance in obtaining the SDS.

If you have questions on how to read SDSs, or questions about the terminology or data used in SDSs, you can contact EHS at 607-255-8200 for more information. Additional information, including how to read an SDS, can be found in the SDS FAQ and a glossary of terms used on SDSs can be found in the “Hyperglossary”. Information on the National Fire Protection Association - NFPA diamond and the Hazardous Materials Information Guide and Hazardous Materials Information System – HMIG and HMIS - is also available.

It is the responsibility of Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors to ensure that staff and students working in laboratories under their supervision have obtained required health and safety training and have access to SDSs (and other sources of information) for all hazardous chemicals used in laboratories under their supervision.

SDSs must be accessible at all times. Access to SDSs can mean access to paper copies or electronic access via the internet. EHS maintains links to a number of SDS websites and other sites with chemical health and safety information.

EHS strongly encourages paper copies of SDSs be kept in the laboratory, however, having SDS websites bookmarked is acceptable as long as all employees in the workplace know where to find the SDSs and are trained on the use of computers to access SDSs. If a laboratory chooses to use electronic access, then EHS recommends the SDS website link be posted on the computer or in another conspicuous location. Some departments maintain three ring binders - “Big Red Books” - with SDSs. Check with your DSR for the location of the departmental SDS collection.

Please Note: any accidents involving a chemical will require an SDS being provided to emergency response personnel and to the attending physician so proper treatment can be administered.
The EHS “rule of thumb” is that a person working in a laboratory should be able to produce an SDS for any hazardous chemical found in the lab within five minutes.