Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

What is a Safety Data Sheet?

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS), previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), is a document that provides information on the properties of hazardous chemicals and how they affect health and safety in the workplace. For example an SDS includes information on:

  • the identity of the chemical,
  • health and physicochemical hazards,
  • safe handling and storage procedures,
  • emergency procedures, and
  • disposal considerations.

The SDS should always be referred to when assessing risks in the workplace.

Duties under the WHS Regulations

The Work Health and Safety Regulations (WHS Regulations) require the manufacturer or importer of a hazardous chemical to prepare an SDS for the chemical. Additionally, a supplier must provide the manufacturer or supplier’s current SDS for the hazardous chemical on first supply to a workplace and upon request.

Code of Practice for Preparation of SDS

Safe Work Australia’s Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals provides detailed guidance on how to prepare a SDS for workplace chemicals. This code of practice should be used where the chemical has been classified according to the GHS. 

Manufacturers and importers of chemicals are able to continue to use the existing MSDS arrangements for workplace hazardous substances and dangerous goods up until 31 December 2016. This applies for chemicals which have been classified according to the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances and the ADG Code. 

Links to SDS documents are provided below. 

until 31 December 2016 Only from 1 January 2012(mandatory after 31 December 2016)

Hazardous Substances and Dangerous Goods

National Code of Practice for the Preparation of Material Safety Data Sheets [NOHSC:2011(2003)]

Hazardous Chemicals

Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals

Reviewing SDS

An SDS must be reviewed periodically to keep it up to date, for example when any new or significant information becomes available on the hazards of the material. Otherwise, a SDS must be reviewed and re-issued every 5 years.

SDS do not need to be formally approved. However, the work health and safety authority in each State and Territory is responsible for enforcing compliance with the WHS Regulations. You should therefore contact the work health and safety authority in your jurisdiction for advice on whether your SDS is compliant with the WHS Regulations.

International SDS

Not all countries use the same criteria for classification of hazardous chemicals, or have equivalent requirements for SDS. As a consequence, some overseas SDS may not meet Australian requirements.  This situation is expected to improve over the coming years as more countries adopt the GHS. 

The importer of a chemical is responsible for ensuring the SDS for the imported chemical meets Australian SDS requirements. If an overseas SDS is not compliant, the importer must prepare one in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals


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