SDS are documents that provide critical information about hazardous chemicals. For example, they include information on:
- the chemical’s identity and ingredients
- health and physical hazards
- safe handling and storage procedures
- emergency procedures
- disposal considerations.
Businesses should use SDS when they assess the risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
In Australia, manufacturers and imports of hazardous chemicals must prepare SDS in accordance with the model Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals. Failure to create SDS correctly is a breach of WHS.
Information to include in safety data sheets
SDS must provide information on the:
- Hazards of the chemical and how to handle it safely, including storage and disposal.
- Physical and chemical properties of the chemical, as well as potential health and emergency response measures.
- Environmental effects of the chemical.
This information must be set out using the following section headings, with further detail available in the model Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals:
- Section 1—Identification: product identifier and chemical identity
- Section 2—Hazard(s) identification
- Section 3—Composition and information on ingredients
- Section 4—First aid measures
- Section 5—Firefighting measures
- Section 6—Accidental release measures
- Section 7—Handling and storage, including how the chemical may be safely used
- Section 8—Exposure controls and personal protection
- Section 9—Physical and chemical properties
- Section 10—Stability and reactivity
- Section 11—Toxicological information
- Section 12—Ecological information
- Section 13—Disposal considerations
- Section 14—Transport information
- Section 15—Regulatory information
- Section 16—Any other relevant information.
Section 1 must include:
- The name, Australian address and business telephone number of either the manufacturer or the importer.
- An Australian business telephone number that preferably operates out-of-hours in case of an emergency.
If you provide a number for emergency information service or a poisons information centre, you must notify the relevant service you are doing this and give them a copy of SDS when finalised.
Chemicals that need safety data sheets
Almost every hazardous chemical needs SDS.
The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations do not require SDS to be prepared in some specific circumstances, including:
- chemicals in batteries while they are incorporated in plant
- fuel, oils or coolants in a container that is fitted to a vehicle, vessel or aircraft, mobile plant, appliance or other device, where the fuel, oils or coolants are intended for its operation
- fuel in the fuel container of a domestic or portable fuel burning appliance where the quantity of fuel does not exceed 25 kg or 25 litres
- hazardous chemicals in portable fire-fighting or medical equipment for use at a workplace
- hazardous chemicals that form part of the integrated refrigeration system of refrigerated freight containers
- potable liquids that are consumer products at retail premises
- food and beverages within the meaning of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code that are in a package and form intended for human consumption
- therapeutic goods at the point of intentional intake by or administration to humans
- veterinary chemical products at the point of administration to animals
- tobacco or products made of tobacco.
For more information about when it’s necessary to prepare SDS, please refer to the model Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals.
Preparing safety data sheets
The model WHS Regulations require the manufacturer or importer of a hazardous chemical to prepare SDS for it. Australian manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals are responsible for:
- Preparing SDS for the hazardous chemical before it is manufactured or imported, or as soon as is practicable.
- Reviewing SDS at least once every five years and amending when necessary to make sure it contains correct and current information.
- Providing current SDS to anyone who is likely to be affected by the chemical and who asks for it.
Obtaining safety data sheets
SDS may be requested from the manufacturer, importer or supplier of a hazardous chemical and many manufacturers and importers make electronic copies of SDS available on their websites.
SDS must be supplied to a workplace:
- when the hazardous chemical is first supplied to the workplace
- the first time a hazardous chemical is supplied after an SDS has been amended.
A hazardous chemical is taken to be first supplied to a workplace if the supply is the first in five years.
Reviewing safety data sheets
Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals must review and update any SDS they produce at least every five years. All SDS must state the date they were last revised (this information is often included in Section 16—Other Information).
Businesses should request a current SDS from the manufacturer, importer or supplier of the chemical if their copy indicates it has not been reviewed in the past five years.
Keeping copies of safety data sheets
Businesses must keep copies of SDS for chemicals they use and they must be readily accessible for all workers involved in using, handling or storing the chemical at the workplace, emergency service workers, and anyone else who may be exposed to the chemical.
The model WHS Regulations do not require businesses to obtain and give access to SDS when:
- Hazardous chemicals are in transit.
- The business is a retailer and the hazardous chemical is a consumer product and intended for supply and not to be opened on the premises.
- The hazardous chemical product is a consumer product used in quantities and a manner that is consistent with household use.
However, in these circumstances businesses must still make sure that sufficient information and instruction is provided to workers and this may involve having accessible SDS.
More information about keeping SDS and a register of hazardous chemicals at a workplace is available under the hazardous chemical registers page.
Research chemicals, waste products and samples for analysis
Where it is not practicable to prepare complete SDS for a chemical because it is a research chemical, waste product or a sample for analysis and the hazard properties are not fully known, it is acceptable to prepare SDS that state:
- the name, Australian address and business telephone number of the manufacturer or importer
- that full identification or hazard information is not available for the chemical
- the chemical identity or structure of the chemical or chemical composition, as far as reasonably known
- any known or suspected hazard
- any precautions that must be taken in using, handling or storing the chemical.
Safety data sheets are comprehensive but not exhaustive
Because a lot of health hazard information in SDS is written in general terms and to cover the general usage of the chemical, the handling and safety precautions may not be specific to your workplace. This means you will need to use the information on SDS for your risk assessment and implement appropriate controls for your workplace and workplace processes.
For more information see the model Code of Practice on Managing the risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace. You could also speak to health and safety specialists, medical practitioners, supervisors, employers or suppliers.
Paper versus electronic
Whether as a manufacturer or importer you opt to prepare and make available a paper or electronic version of SDS will depend on the requirements of the business using the hazardous chemical. If a business indicates they need an electronic version, then that is enough to comply with any obligations to supply SDS. Manufacturers, importers or suppliers will need to provide a paper version on request.
International safety data sheets
Unless SDS have been prepared specifically for use in Australia it is unlikely it will meet all the requirements of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, which requires information specific to the chemical’s use in Australia. For example the contact details of the Australian manufacturer or importer of the hazardous chemical.
When a hazardous chemical is imported to Australia it is the responsibility of the importer here to ensure the chemical is correctly classified and prepare compliant SDS.
If a suitable overseas SDS have been developed specifically for use in Australia, the Australian importer is responsible for making sure it meets Australian requirements.
SDS for hazardous chemicals don’t need to be approved by a WHS regulator. However, regulators can review SDS to determine whether they are compliant with WHS Regulations.
Non-hazardous chemicals do not require SDS.
You can check the definition of a hazardous chemical in the Guidance on the Classification of Hazardous Chemicals under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations.
Sometimes customers may request SDS for a non-hazardous chemical. If this happens the manufacturer or importer is not obliged to prepare or provide one; it is at their discretion.
If you do wish to prepare SDS for non-hazardous chemicals we recommend it is prepared in accordance with the model Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals so far as is practicable.
We provide comprehensive information about preparing SDS for use in Australia in the model Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals. This document includes a checklist of what information to include in your SDS.
Safe Work Australia is not a regulator and cannot advise you about SDS compliance. If you need help, please contact your state or territory work health and safety authority.