Facts about safety data sheets

A safety data sheet is a standardized document intended for occupational use. The safety data sheet should provide information to those who work with or near hazardous chemicals so that they can protect themselves and the environment.


Manufacturers must provide safety data sheets

All suppliers who manufacture, import or distribute chemicals are obligated to provide safety data sheets for the recipients, free of charge on paper or electronically, both on first-time delivery and after changes made to the datasheet to those who have received safety data sheets during the past 12 months.

Safety data sheets are generally used for hazardous chemicals in work-related activities. For substances and mixtures that have hazardous, flammable, explosive or environmentally harmful properties. It is not necessary to provide safety data sheets for hazardous substances and mixtures sold to private consumers if the chemicals are provided with information that allows users to provide adequate health and environmental safety measures. Many therefore choose to have available safety data sheets for all their products, as consumers may need to look up safety data sheets if there is no other information on necessary measures to secure health, safety and the environment.


The REACH - regulations

REACH is an EU regulation ((EC) No. 1907/2006)) dated May 30, 2008, which is implemented on the registration, assessment, authorization and limitation of chemicals (REACH Regulation).

REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals.

Requirements for the format and content of a safety data sheet are provided in REACH Article 31 in Annex II, as last updated by Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/830. Safety data sheets for all hazardous substances produced in quantities above 10 tonnes per year or more shall have exposure scenarios attached for identified uses. Safety data sheets with attached exposure scenarios (for substance) or integrated (for mixtures) are called extended safety data sheets.


Which chemicals require a safety data sheet

Safety data sheets must be prepared for:

  • Substances and mixtures which are subject to classification in accordance with the regulations on classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP regulations). Implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008
  • Substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT). Also for substances that are very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB)
  • Substances that are candidates to be listed on REACH Annex XIV on the approval scheme, ie substances on the candidate list

For preparations that are not classified as dangerous, the following rules also apply:

The supplier must make a safety data sheet available on request if the mixture contains:

  • at least one hazardous substance in concentrations of at least 1% by weight for non- gaseous mixtures, and at least 0,2% by weight for gaseous substances
  • at least one PBT or vPvB substance or a substance from the candidate list in concentrations of at least 0.1% by weight for non-gaseous mixtures
  • substances for which occupational exposure limits have been set in the EEA regulations


Requirements for the employer

The Working Environment Act requires employers to ensure that safety data sheets are available for hazardous substances and hazardous biological material used in the business. Employers in companies that manufacture, pack, use or store hazardous substances have a duty to create a chemical register.


Why Safety Data Sheet

The information in safety data sheets should ensure the safety of chemicals in the workplace, and shall contribute to:

  • initiate necessary measures to safeguard health and safety at the workplace for the external environment.
  • Ensure proper waste treatment and encourage users to find less harmful chemicals.
  • ensure safe handling, storage and disposal of the chemicals, and provide information on measures in case of accidental release.

The safety data sheets shall also be used actively in the work on survey, risk assessment and safety precautions with the use of chemicals.


Content of safety data sheet

There are detailed requirements for the content. The date and the person responsible for the creation of the security datasheet needs to be clearly stated. It should not contain empty paragraphs and subsections, and missing information should be commented on. A safety data sheet must have 16 compulsory points:

  1. Identification of the substance/mixture and of the company/undertaking
  2. Hazards identification
  3. Composition/information on ingredients
  4. First aid measures
  5. Firefighting measures
  6. Accidental release measures
  7. Handling and storage
  8. Exposure controls/personal protection
  9. Physical and chemical properties
  10. Stability and reactivity
  11. Toxicological information
  12. Ecological information
  13. Disposal considerations
  14. Transport information
  15. Regulatory information
  16. Other information

The supplier shall update a safety data sheet as soon as there is new information that may affect the measures for risk management, and inform customers that a new version exists.


Checking the contents of the safety data sheet

Safety data sheets must be updated as the regulations change. It is important to establish routines that ensure that the safety data sheets have satisfactory quality and that they meet the content requirements that the regulations require, so that the information becomes satisfactory. The regulations on health, environment and safety in the workplace (the Internal Control Regulations) provide provisions on what the control measures shall consist of and what should be documented in writing. In the company's routines it must be clear who should:

  • be responsible for checking the safety data sheets for new chemicals when these are used.
  • ensure that the safety data sheets are updated.
  • obtain missing information from the manufacturer/supplier if the safety data sheets are defective


Errors in the safety data sheet

If you find a safety data sheet in the workplace that you think contains errors, you should first ask your employer whether the business may have received an updated safety data sheet for the chemical. If you do not, the employer should contact the person who provided the chemical and ask if they have newer versions of the safety data sheet.

Often it can be difficult to assess whether a safety data sheet is good enough. Then the company's health service can be of help, with the assessment itself and in contacting the person who has provided the safety data sheet.