GHS & SDS – 8/19/13

 In Tip of the Week

We have been providing information lately about the impending changes with the adoption of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) into the Hazard Communication Standard.  One thing that has changed is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).  GHS has dropped the term “Material” from the name, and they are going to be called just Safety Data Sheets (SDS).  And this is to take place by December 1, 2015.  If you are a manufacturer, importer, or distributor of chemicals, mark that date on your calendar.  You should be using and sending only SDSs in the new format by that date.

But the name isn’t the only change taking place.  The new SDSs will now have 16 sections, and they are to be in a specific order.  This is actually good news; we can show you why.  Does your work place have more than one chemical?  If so, go to where your MSDSs are stored.  Pick any two at random.  Try to find the storage requirements for each chemical.  Is it in the same place on each MSDS? It may not be – and that’s the point.  There was no standardized format to them, making it harder to find information quickly.

Much of the information contained in the new SDSs will be the same, just easier to find.  For example, the name of the chemical, supplier, hazard identification (sometimes with the new pictograms we talked about a few weeks ago) and the composition and ingredients of the chemical will be at the top.  The next three sections contain the emergency procedures for first aid, firefighting and accidental release.

Storage and Handling, Exposure Control/PPE come next, followed by Physical and Chemical Properties, Stability and Reactivity, and Toxicological Information, which complete the required sections.  You may be already be aware that while most of the new SDS format and information is currently from international sources, the exposure limits set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) will be maintained on the SDSs.

The last four sections are not mandatory. The information in those sections may or may not be included in the SDS.  These sections include Ecological, Disposal, Transportation and Regulatory information. Please note that if you have been relying on your MSDS for disposal and/or transportation information, once the changeover to SDS has occurred, you may or may not be able to do that anymore.

Because much of the new format is currently coming to you from sources outside the US, you will notice that information relating to temperatures on the SDSs is in Celsius (C).  Flashpoints, Lower and Upper Explosive Limits, Boiling Points, etc., and amounts are coming to you in liters and grams rather than gallons and pounds. If you are not familiar with using these scales, you might need some help.  There are many free sites online that help with conversions.  Here is just one of many online converters you might find convenient to use:

There is more information, but this is an overview of the MSDS to SDS change.  For more information, or to complete your training on GHS (which is required by December 1, 2013), we offer an online Hazard Communication course with GHS at

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