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The need for Safety Data Sheets (SDS) in Australian Workplaces

The need for Safety Data Sheets (SDS) in Australian Workplaces

When maintaining a high standard of workplace safety, few documents are as crucial as Safety Data Sheets (SDS). These comprehensive documents are crucial for ensuring the safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous substances. In Australia, where strict regulations govern occupational health and safety, understanding what a safety data sheet is and how to read and understand one, is important for both employers and employees. In this article we will explore and discuss the importance, content, and regulatory landscape surrounding SDS in Australian workplaces.

What is a Safety Data Sheet? (SDS)

A safety data sheet (previously known as a material safety data sheet or MSDS) is an important information resource for workers and personnel managing the risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. It is important that staff read the SDS carefully and understand the safety requirements before working with a hazardous chemical so that it can be safely stored, handled, disposed of, transported and managed in the workplace.

In order to meet Australian Workplace, Health and Safety (WHS) requirements organisations are required to keep an inventory of hazardous chemicals used, transported, or stored within the workplace and must be established and regularly maintained. This inventory should include the latest Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical listed. This inventory should be kept in an easy to access area in a workplace and staff should be notified and trained on where to find it in the event of an emergency.

It is important to make sure that SDS are regularly inspected to make sure they are valid and in date - no more than 5 years since last published or updated.

Information found on Safety Data Sheets

An SDS which complies with Australian WHS Regulations contains the following 16 sections, each containing specific information relating to the chemical being used, handled, stored, disposed of or transported:

  1. Identification: This section of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) includes essential details about the chemical product, such as its identifier or trade name, manufacturer or importer contact information and an emergency telephone number for immediate assistance. This information should align with the product label to ensure consistency and accuracy.

  2. Hazards Identification: Here, the SDS outlines potential health and physical hazards associated with the chemical, aiding in risk assessment for worker safety and environmental protection. While the information generally matches that on the product label, the SDS may provide additional details not found on the label.
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients: If the chemical is a mixture, this section discloses the identities and proportions of hazardous ingredients within the mixture, ensuring transparency regarding potential risks.
  4. First-Aid Measures: In the event of an accident, this section provides crucial guidance on necessary first aid measures, including health effects of exposure through ingestion, inhalation, or skin/eye contact. It covers both acute and long-term effects, as well as medical conditions that may exacerbate adverse effects.
  5. Fire-Fighting Measures: Specific instructions for tackling chemical fires are detailed here, including recommended approaches, extinguishing media, and protective measures to ensure firefighter safety.
  6. Accidental Release Measures: This section outlines procedures to mitigate adverse effects in the event of a spill or accidental release, minimizing harm to individuals, property, and the environment.
  7. Handling and Storage: Instructions for safe handling and storage of the chemical are provided here to minimize risks to personnel, property, and the environment.
  8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection: Information on control measures to reduce exposure, including engineering controls, exposure limits, and recommended personal protective equipment (PPE), is detailed in this section.
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties: Detailed information on the physical and chemical characteristics of the chemical, such as appearance, odor, pH, flash point, and density, is provided here for reference.
  10. Stability and Reactivity: This section highlights any hazardous reactions that may occur under specific conditions, as well as details of incompatible materials, helping to prevent accidents or adverse reactions.
  11. Toxicological Information: Detailed toxicological properties of the chemical are provided primarily for use by medical professionals, toxicologists, and Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) professionals.
  12. Ecological Information: This section provides detailed information on the ecological hazards posed by the chemical, aiding in environmental risk assessment and mitigation.
  13. Disposal Considerations: Proper disposal methods, recycling options, or reclamation procedures for the chemical are explained here, ensuring environmentally responsible handling.
  14. Transport Information: Basic classification information for transportation, such as UN number, hazard classes, and packing groups, is included for safe transport by road, rail, sea, or air.
  15. Regulatory Information: Advice on international or national regulatory requirements specific to the chemical, including protocols and prohibitions, is provided here, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations.
  16. Other Information: Additional relevant information for SDS preparation, including the date of preparation and key abbreviations, acronyms, and references, is included in this section for clarity and completeness.

Where do I get an SDS from?

According to WHS regulations, suppliers are required to provide Safety Data Sheets free of charge upon the first supply of the chemical to the workplace or upon request. If you haven't received a Safety Data Sheet for a chemical you're working with, it's imperative to request one from the supplier before proceeding. In the event that the supplier fails to provide the SDS upon request, it's advisable to contact your local Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulator for assistance. Ensuring access to SDS is essential for maintaining a safe work environment and mitigating risks associated with hazardous substances. 


Work Health and Safety in Australia

In Australia, the regulation of hazardous substances and SDS is primarily governed by Safe Work Australia. Work Health and Safety (WHS) requirements outline the responsibilities of employers and suppliers in ensuring workplace safety. Under these regulations, employers are required to:

  • Provide access to SDS for all hazardous substances used in the workplace.
  • Ensure employees are trained in the safe handling and storage of hazardous substances.
  • Implement control measures to minimise risks associated with hazardous substances.
  • Maintain accurate records of SDS and chemical inventories.

Additionally, specific regulations, such as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), influence the format and content of SDS to ensure consistency and clarity in hazard communication.


Using Safety Data Sheets for spill control, containment and clean-up

Integrating Safety Data Sheets (SDS) with spill kits enhances workplace safety by providing crucial information and resources for effectively managing spills of hazardous substances. Here's how SDS and spill kits can work together:

Preparing for Spills

  1. Identification of Hazardous Substances: SDS provide detailed information about the properties and hazards of substances used in the workplace. By reviewing SDS, employees can identify the potential risks associated with different chemicals, allowing them to take appropriate precautions and select the right spill response materials.

  2. Selection of Spill Kit Contents: Based on the information provided in SDS, employers can determine the appropriate spill response materials needed for each hazardous substance. This ensures that spill kits are adequately stocked with absorbents, neutralisers, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other tools necessary for containing and cleaning up spills safely.

Spill Response

  1. Immediate Assessment: In the event of a spill, employees can refer to a SDS to quickly assess the risks posed by the spilled substance, including its flammability, toxicity, and reactivity. This information guides their initial response actions and helps them determine the appropriate level of personal protection required.

  2. Effective Containment: SDS provide guidance on spill containment measures and compatible absorbents or neutralizing agents. By following the recommendations outlined in SDS, employees can effectively contain the spill, preventing it from spreading and minimizing its impact on the environment and worker safety.

  3. Safe Cleanup Procedures: SDS offer step-by-step instructions for safely cleaning up spills, including proper disposal methods for contaminated materials. Spill kit users can follow these procedures to ensure thorough cleanup while minimizing exposure to hazardous substances and reducing the risk of secondary incidents.

Post-Spill Evaluation and Reporting

  1. Documentation: After a spill incident, employers are required to document the details of the event, including the substances involved, cleanup procedures performed, and any adverse effects or injuries sustained. SDS serve as valuable reference documents for accurately documenting the spill and ensuring compliance with regulatory reporting requirements.

  2. Review and Improvement: Following a spill, employers can review the effectiveness of their spill response procedures and identify areas for improvement. By analyzing the information provided in SDS and evaluating the outcomes of the spill response, employers can update their spill prevention and response plans to mitigate future risks more effectively.

Using Safety Data Sheets to select the right spill kits for your business

By reading and understanding the information provided in the Safety Data Sheet workplaces can effectively decide which spill response kits are best suited for their needs. Titan Safety stock a variety of Australian made spill kits nationally to suit a wide range of hazardous substances. This includes:

  1. General purpose spill kits: Colour-coded blue these spill kits are designed to clean up all mild, water based liquids including paint, coolant, oil, fuel, degreasers and mild chemicals. 
  2. Oil & Fuel spill kits: Colour-coded yellow these spill kits are designed to clean up spills of hydrocarbons including oil, fuel and diesel whilst repelling water. Perfect for use outdoors in in a marine environment. 
  3. Chemical spill kits: Colour-coded red these spill kits are designed to clean up spills of all liquids including harsh chemicals or acids. 

Click here to view our entire range of spill kits and place an order today!