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An Overview of GHS Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals describes and categorizes the hazards of chemical products, and imparts health and safety notification on labels and safety data sheets (SDS). The aim is to have uniformity worldwide in terms of setting rules for classifying risks and in the format and content of labels and safety data sheets. GHS was developed by a multinational team of risk communication experts.

As a key component of the GHS, the safety data sheets are meant to give extensive information about a substance or compound to be used in the workplace. Found in the SDS are information about hazards, that include environmental hazards, and advice about safety precautions.

The SDS is usually connected to the product and not specific to the workplace. The data on an SDS provide the means for an employer to create an active plan of worker protection regulations which includes training that is related to the workplace. More than that, the plan can include mandatory measures to safeguard the environment.

The GHS safety data sheet can also give vital information to specific handlers of the product. It provides guidance to the transporters of the dangerous chemicals, the responders who will address emergency situations like the poison centers, and the customers who will use the products professionally.

So how does one determine if a product should have a SDS? A SDS is needed for substances and compounds which conform to the agreed norms for physical, health or environmental risks spelled out in the GHS. It is needed too by all mixtures that are composed of elements that jibe with the criteria for carcinogenic, deadly to reproduction, or harmful to organs in concentrations that go beyond the cut-off levels determined by the standards for mixtures. Certified experts may likewise order SDS for mixtures not corresponding to the criteria for classification but comprised of toxic elements in significant concentrations.

The format of the SDS has the following headings and in the order listed below: Identification, Hazard(s) identification, Composition/information on ingredients, First-aid measures, Fire-fighting measures, Accidental release measures, Handling and Storage, Exposure controls/personal protection, Physical and chemical properties, Stability and reactivity, Toxicological information, Ecological information, Disposal considerations, Transport information, Regulatory information, and Other information.

When it comes to the content of the SDS, there should be a clear definition of the data employed to determine the hazards. The basic information for all of the sections should be covered. If a certain information is not appropriate or not feasible under a specific heading, the SDS should indicate this clearly. There are instances when the headings have national or regional information so the SDS should include what is relevant for the area where it is headed.
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