What You Need to Know to Ensure Effective Usage of SDSs


Your workplace has hazardous chemical products that you are likely unaware of. The corresponding Safety Data Sheets for these products are filled with useful information for workplace safety. Properly managing those Safety Data Sheets is an important first step in becoming aware of the hazards and achieving chemical safety compliance.

What is an SDS?

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are summary documents that provide information about the hazards of a product and advice about safety precautions. SDSs are usually written by the manufacturer or supplier of the product. In some circumstances, an employer may be required to prepare an SDS (e.g., when the product is produced and used exclusively in that workplace).

SDSs provide more detailed hazard information about the product than the label. They are an important resource for workplaces and workers to help you learn more about the product(s) used. Use this information to identify the hazards of the products you use and to protect yourself from those hazards, including safe handling and emergency measures.

SDSs tell users what the hazards of the product are, how to use the product safely, what to expect if the recommendations are not followed, how to recognize symptoms of exposure, and what to do if emergencies occur.

What is included in SDS?

Each worksite needs an SDS for each hazardous material present at that site – they need to be easily accessible when needed.

A standard SDS has 16 sections as outlined in WHMIS 2015 and the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS): material identification; hazard(s) identification; composition information; first aid measures; firefighting measures; accidental release measures; handling and storage; exposure controls and personal protection; physical and chemical properties; stability and reactivity; toxicological information; ecological information; disposal considerations; transport information; regulatory information; and other information. Ecological information, disposal considerations and transport information are non-mandatory.

What products require SDSs?

Every product that is classified as a “hazardous product” under WHMIS (see table in section 2.2 for applicable provincial/territorial legislation) that will be used, handled, or stored in a workplace must have a safety data sheet.

How often does an SDS need to be updated?

Although Canada’s Hazardous Products Regulations requires suppliers to update their SDSs only if new information becomes available, occupational health and safety is regulated by each provincial/territorial jurisdiction in Canada. Therefore, your need to update your company’s SDSs will depend on what jurisdiction(s) your business operates in.

What are my training requirements for SDSs?

Your supervisor or employer should review with you the specific SDSs or other information sheets for the chemicals and materials used in your workplace. Employers must provide this information when an employee is initially assigned to a work area where hazardous chemicals are present and before assignments involving new exposure situations.

The following aspects of the SDS or other information sheet must be covered:

  • Physical and health hazards of chemicals present in your workplace.
  • Methods and observations you can use to identify hazardous chemicals, such as appearance and odor.
  • Procedures for handling the product to protect against hazards, including personal protective equipment, work practices, and emergency procedures.
  • The location of SDSs or other information sheets at your work site, and how you may obtain and use appropriate hazard information.

To make sure all training requirements are met, we recommend reviewing each section of the SDS.

When would employee use an SDS?

Always be familiar with the hazards of a product before you start using it. You should look at an SDS, match the name of the product on the container to the one on the SDS, know the hazards, understand safe handling and storage instructions, as well as understand what to do in an emergency.

You can think of the SDS as having four main purposes. It provides information on:

  1. Identification: for the product and supplier.
  2. Hazards: physical (fire and reactivity) and health.
  3. Prevention: steps you can take to work safely, reduce, or prevent exposure, or in an emergency.
  4. Response: appropriate responses in various situations (e.g., first-aid, fire, accidental release).


Global Hazmat has 25 years of experience validating and maintaining fully compliant safety documents for chemicals and dangerous goods. In addition, we offer a combined SDS that can meet Canada’s and the US’s requirements. For example, both countries require Safety Data Sheets and labels for hazardous products in the workplace.

How can we help?

  • Complete Compliance Management
  • SDS Reformatting and Updating
  • SDS translations
  • Creating extended safety data sheets
  • Classification of substances and products according to current regulatory standards to determine hazard communication requirements
  • We will identify data gaps and ensure compliance with current regulatory standards
  • Prepare workplace product labels – Use our experience and expertise for your organization.

Call us today or contact us online for more information about our SDS consulting services or to schedule a consultation.