The Purpose: GHS Safety Data Sheets Explained
Updated: May 4
This series of articles - GHS Safety Data Sheets Explained - is taken directly from the Ultimate Guide to Understanding GHS Safety Data Sheets written by Sevron Ltd.
It was designed and published specifically to assist users of safety data sheets in the understanding of the information provided on them regarding the safe use, handling and storage of manufactured chemical products.
The structure of globally harmonised safety data sheets was carefully designed to allow end-users of chemical products to quickly and easily find the information they need to ensure they can work with substances or mixtures of substances safely.
It follows an order required in Annex II of the REACH Regulations and is broken down into Sections and Subsections. To further assist end-users in the understanding of this technical information, a glossary has been included in the guide and can be found here.
Because of the nature of chemical safety legislation, safety data sheet jargon and hazardous substance information, in general, the guide will also contain some technical terms which may be difficult to understand. The glossary included at the end of the guide (and the web page linked separately above) will contain descriptions of those terms.
Unfortunately, several of those descriptions may seem vague or difficult to understand in themselves and as such will require further research on your part or the inclusion of a chemical safety expert who is able to fully explain their meanings and assist you in determining the correct engineering controls matching the circumstances in your workplace.
Of course, we will include links to recommendations for further reading and regulatory legislation specific to each section. This information will be provided at the beginning of each section and should be used in conjunction with the guide. Many links provided will contain relevant information from a recognised authority on chemical safety legislation.
We will also include details of any organisations who are mentioned in this guide, or who we feel may be able to provide assistance to you regarding chemical safety in your workplace.
Please note: Links heading directly to regulatory legislation will be difficult to understand. If you feel you are unable to fully understand any of the information, you must request assistance and clarification from a competent person.
Understanding that the information provided in regulatory legislation can be convoluted, European and UK chemical safety authorities also regularly publish (and update) easier to read the guidance, known as ECHA guidance documents and the UK Approved Codes of Practice. They are available on the European Chemical Agency's (ECHA), and the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) websites, respectively.
Links to any and all regulatory legislation will also be included in a separate section at the end of the guide.
Anyone using the Ultimate Guide to Understanding GHS Safety Data Sheets - or this series of articles - should ensure that any chemical products they receive and use in the workplace are adequate and suitable for their intended use of the product.
Suppliers of chemical products are required to include information relating to known uses of their products so end-users can check whether their intended use is included. However, it is often the case that a supplier is unable to anticipate every conceivable use. If your intended use is not listed in a safety data sheet, you must contact your supplier to discuss with them how it can be included in future revisions of their safety data sheet.
All suppliers are required to include the date of mixture of their safety data sheets and any information relating to significant revisions of each.
Please note: Due to the nature of chemical safety and national and international drive to improve it, the information provided in the Ultimate Guide to GHS Safety Data Sheets - and this series of articles - is time-sensitive and will often be amended or replaced with more relevant legislation. It is vitally important that anyone reading this guide checks with the relevant authoritative sources that the regulatory information provided here is up-to-date before applying and enforcing it.
As well as providing approved guidance relating to health and safety, the Health and Safety Executive, along with the Environment Agency (EA), who deal with issues relating to the environment, both provide guidance literature and several points of contact for any enquiries you may have.
Disclaimer: Sevron Ltd present the information in this guide in good faith but take no responsibility for the consequences of any misinterpretation of its contents. Any references provided in this guide which link to any publication or service does not imply that Sevron Ltd guarantees the suitability or quality of the publication or service. It should also be noted that any contact details - including phone numbers, fax numbers and web addresses - provided in the guide and this series of articles are liable to change.
Confused by the many pieces of information provided in those safety data sheets? Join the International Association for Chemical Safety's completely free Health and Safety Academy now and take the Safety Data Sheet Awareness Certification™.