Topics explained – Safety data sheets

If hazardous chemicals are used in a workplace, the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has an obligation to obtain the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the products.

They must also use this information to develop a safe procedure for workers to use the chemical, as well as making the SDS available to all workers.

An SDS is a document providing critical information about a hazardous chemical and generally includes information about:

  • the chemical’s identity and ingredients
  • health and physical hazards
  • safe handling and storage procedures
  • emergency procedures
  • disposal considerations.

Third party SDSs and their databases may be used to provide additional information as well. PCBUs should exercise caution when using a third party SDS as the manufacturer may choose not to reveal their formulation to the third party.

The Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals – Code of Practice provides practical guidance on how to prepare an SDS for any hazardous chemical being manufactured or imported for use, handling or storage in Australia.

Preparing and providing an SDS

It is the responsibility of manufacturers and importers to determine if the combination used in their product is hazardous and requires an SDS.

The manufacturer and importer must:

  • prepare the SDS and review it when the formulation changes
  • pass the SDS to the purchaser of the substance and reissue it when the formulation changes
  • review and revise each SDS as often as necessary, or at least every 5 years, making sure that the information is accurate and up to date.

The manufacturer and importer can be prosecuted for a breach of the legislation for including false or misleading information in an SDS.

Downstream suppliers of dangerous goods and hazardous substances must also provide SDSs developed by the manufacturer or importer. However, this doesn’t include suppliers who are retailers, such as hardware and swimming pool stores.