Safety Services


16 Sections of a Safety Data Sheet

For a SDS to be valid in the UK it must have 16 sections. ​Here is information on how to read and understand the 16 Sections of a Safety Data Sheet.

How to read and understand the 16 Sections of an SDS​

All the information within an SDS will be relevant depending on the circumstances. What information will be relevant to you will depend on a number of factors including, but not limited to; ​

  • What you are doing with the substance, storage, use or adding to a waste stream​
  • How you are going to use the substance, whether in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions, for use in an experiment, or another use such as an art exhibition​
  • The environmental conditions you will be exposing the substance to (temperature, pressure humidity etc).​

​Some of the information is relevant no matter what, such as the information relating to the correct firefighting media and accidental release. Although your procedure should prevent these circumstances from happening, you must have emergency plans in place using this information. ​

1. Identification of substance /mixture and of the company / undertaking​

This section contains the contact details of :

  • the manufacturer, including emergency contact details.
  • recommended use, if relevant, and any restrictions of use.

Any risk assessment should either confirm that the substance will be used in accordance with this information, or detail what the use is going to be and if the restrictions are not going to be followed. 

Full information on how and why the control measures that will be in place must be listed. Additional information on end-use can be found in section 7.​

At UCL, if restrictions are not going to be followed, the risk assessment must be authorised by a senior manager, and any further procedures set by the department in question before the substance can be used in this manner​

2. Hazard identification

There are 4 segments of information.​

  1. ​CLP (classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures) are the UK regulations that enforce the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised system classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS). It uses 9 pictograms and identifies the hazards of the chemicals in the state that they are transported in.​
  2. Signal word. After the pictogram may be a signal word (this is optional) that indicates the severity of the warnings. The lower hazard is ‘Warning’, the higher hazard is ‘Danger’.​
  3. Hazard or H statements have 3 groups about how the substance may harm people. ​
    - Physical Hazards H200 - H290, 35 phrases​
    - Health Hazards H300 - H373, 38 phases that are used individually and 17 phases that combine 2 or more risks together​
    - Environmental Hazards H400 - H433, 9 phrases​
  4. Precautionary or P statements advise about the storage and use of the substance and has 5 groups; ​
    - General (standard good practice) P101 - P103, 3 phrases ​
    - Prevention (lowers the likelihood of exposure) P201 - P284, 34 individual phrases and 2 that combine 2 or more ​
    - Reponses (lowers the consequences of exposure) P301 - P391, 46 individual phases and 24 phrases that combine 2 or more​
    - Storage (safe storage) P401 - P422, 13 individual phrases and 6 phrases that combine 2 or more ​
    - Disposal P501 - P502, 2 individual phrases ​

H and P phrases replaced the S and R phrases, so if the SDS you are working with uses S or R phases, it will not be the most current version and you should contact the supplier to access the current version.​

3. Composition/information on ingredients​

For mixtures and compounds and other substances, it will list all the ingredients that are considered hazardous. If the substance is covered by patents or copyright, this information may be incomplete and if you are not using it in accordance with manufactures instructions further communication with the manufacturer may be necessary. For single-ingredient products it will list the purity and if relevant the concentration and the solvent used to make the solution.​

4. First Aid Measures​

This section covers basic first aid but not full medical treatment. In the case of exposure your supervisor and a first aider must be informed, and if you have any concerns medical advice should be arranged. In addition to this section, section 8 which cover the exposure controls and exposures limits should be read. There are 4 sections of information​.

  1. General Advice - This usually is covered in good practice. Anything that it outside UCL or departmental good practise should be highlighted in the risk assessment​.
  2. Advice for contact by the different routes of exposure – This usually is covered in good practice. Anything that it outside UCL or departmental good practise should be highlighted in the risk assessment​.
  3. Symptoms and effects - Should be considered as part of the risk assessment when considering the consequence of the risk before control measures are in place​.
  4. Notes to the physician – Must be available to the first aider and other medical professionals. If you work with an SDS online consider whether access to this information is reliable in an emergency or if this information should be recorded in a hard copy somewhere that will be accessible in an emergency.​
5. Fire-fighting measures

This section covers the following information​

  1. Suitable & unsuitable extinguishing media – UCL provide water mist at the point of safety as standard. If the SDS recommends anything else, please contact the Fire Safety Team​.
  2. Physical properties that may lead to a fire, flash point, auto-ignition temperature, explosion limits, oxidising properties and sensitivity to physical shock or static discharge.​
  3. Specific hazards related to fire from the substance​.
  4. Hazardous combustion products​.
  5. Information for firefighters – The seals on standard breathing apparatus is not suitable for many chemical fires, advice of the best equipment must be available in an emergency for the fire and rescue service to carry out their own risk assessment.​
6. Accidental release measures​

This information will enable you to ensure that you have the correct spill kit available. The advice covers;​

  1. Personal precautions, including additional PPE, ventilation or the need to remove ignition sources​
  2. If there are additional precautions to ensure that a chemical spill does not develop into a pollution incident​
  3. Advice on the best clean up materials to be kept in the spill kits ​
7. Handling and storage​

Although it is possible to produce and then immediately destroy a substance in most circumstances it is not possible to use a substance without the need to handle and store it. ​

Advice on the precautions to be taken by individuals and good storage. You should highlight any points that are not covered by good practice in the risk assessment​.

Additional information on the specific end-use can be found here.​

8. Exposure controls / personal protection​

The first section is referred to as control parameters. This section provides the information on how the workplace exposure limits were established if relevant. If the SDS is not written for the UK market exclusively, care must be taken to note the correct limits for the UK.​

The second section will list the minimum expected engineering controls and PPE standards to be used. The uses of these should be confirmed in the risk assessment and if adjustments have been made, include an explanation of why and how the same level of protection has been achieved. ​

If there are workplace exposure limits (WELs) the risk assessment should indicate if health surveillance is required and what type.​

9. Physical and chemical properties​

This section covers the properties of the substance in the state that it was transported and the chemical properties in normal environmental conditions (room temperature and standard pressure). This may repeat information that is in the earlier section such as the flashpoint from section 5.

However section 9 should be checked each time in case the information had been missed from the earlier sections.

10. Stability and reactivity​

Provides information on the substance under normal conditions, the risk assessment should cover whether the substance will be kept under these conditions, if not further information may be needed about the stability and reactivity of the substance under the activity’s conditions.​

This section may be able to provide some information on this as it also covers conditions to avoid.​

Other information covered: incompatible material for both storage and reactions, hazardous decomposition production (from reaction with air, oxygen or water at standard storage conditions) and information on other hazardous reactions including hazardous polymerization.​

11. Toxicological information​

This information is used to classify the substance for CLP and is why the substance has been assigned certain H and P phrases. Tests have been carried out a stated life form indicating the toxicity of the substance by the specified exposure route. For example, the LD50 is the oral dose at which 50% of the lifeforms were killed when they ingested the substance. ​

Further information in this section explains the dosage that other harmful effects were assessed at, including irritancy, sensitization, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, teratogenicity and embryo toxicity, mutagenicity and toxicologically synergistic products.​

Although relevant for work with all hazardous substances, this section must be read and specific control measure to be included when working with biological hazardous substances. ​

12. Ecological information​

PBT and vPvB stands for persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic and VERY persistent, VERY bio-accumulative.​

Section 11 covers the harm that the substance can do to the environment, both from gross contamination from a spill and over time if the waste is not treated in the correct stream. This is particularly important for UCL as although single disposal through the mains water system may be within acceptable limits, repeated use of this system may have accumulative effects. The risk assessment for any substance before it is brought on to UCL sites must cover the safe and sustainable methods for disposal of both expected waste and accidental waste, including decomposition products. ​

13. Disposal information​

Disposal information should cover the correct methods that the substance can be sent to the waste stream, including suitable and unsuitable methods of treatment of the substance and items that are contaminated with the substance. Due to the range of legislation that this covers and local rules that may be in place, always checks with a supervisor to ensure that the information is correct for your specific waste and area.  ​

14. Transport information​

Under UK law, the transport of hazardous substances is covered by the carriage of dangerous goods by road, rail, inland waterway, sea and air which is line with the UN model regulations. Section 14 covers the information required if you need to send the substance to another site including another UCL site. This information includes;​

  • UN number​
  • UN proper shipping name​
  • Transport Hazard class(es)​
  • Packing Group​
  • Environmental Hazards​
  • Special precautions for user​
  • Information for transport in bulk.​

If you do have to ship samples or any hazardous substance please contact the Safety Services for specialist advice on the movement of dangerous goods.​​

15. Regulatory information​

This section will be relevant to the country of origin. Always ensure that you have an SDS written for users based in the UK.​

It will list the other statutory instruments guidance and other documents that affect the purchase, storage, use, or production of the substance including but not limited to​:

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (as amended). (COSHH)​.
  • Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations.​
  • Dangerous Preparations Directive 1999/45/EC.​
16. Other information​

This section is how you can check that the SDS is the latest version and suitable for use in the UK. Information from the publisher, including publishing date.

What is the Safety Data Sheet? →