Mysteries of the SDS/MSDS Answered

Is the SDS required in a dg/hazmat shipment?

Many dangerous goods (hazardous materials) shippers ask common questions about Safety Data Sheets (SDS), formerly know as MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets).  But first, here is some background information on how the SDS came to be.

The older version, or MSDS, was around for many years, and was required in the US by OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Agency) to disclose the dangers and characteristics of manufactured chemicals in the workplace.  The problem was that it contained a flaw because it was not a standardized (harmonized) document around the world.  For example, one chemical manufacturer might produce an MSDS with ten sections and another with 14 – both of which may not cover all the same aspects of disclosure about the chemical properties.

In December of 2002, the United Nations stepped in with a new initiative called the “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS),” which addresses classification of chemicals by types of hazard and proposes harmonized hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets.  Its goals are to ensure that information on physical hazards and toxicity from chemicals be available in order to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport and use of these chemicals.  The GHS also provides a basis for harmonization of rules and regulations on chemicals at a national, regional and worldwide level, an important factor also for trade facilitation.

See our Knowledge Base Article for some common questions and answers about the SDS from a shipper’s perspective.