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The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) FAQ: Index

About this FAQ

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This FAQ (list of Frequently Asked Questions) was started by ILPI in 1995 after readers of our most popular web page, Where to Find SDS's on the Internet, began asking us for help. By March of 2001, the FAQ had grown so long that we decided to subdivide the FAQ into several sections to make it more readable.

With OSHA's regulatory updates under the Globally Harmonized Standard (GHS) which took full force in 2016 in the US, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are now called Safety Data Sheets (SDS). You will see both terms throughout this FAQ as it references various OSHA interpretation letters issued with the older term. See What are Material Safety Data Sheets and Safety Data Sheets (MSDS and SDS)? for more information.

Each section of this FAQ is a fairly broad category, so there is bound to be some overlap between the sections. If you still can't find an answer to your question after reading through the various sections, see the last question under Miscellaneous.

Table of Contents


  1. What are Material Safety Data Sheets and Safety Data Sheets (MSDS and SDS)?
  2. Who are SDS's for?
  3. What does an MSDS or SDS look like?
  4. Are there any tutorials that explain how to read an SDS?
  5. Where can I get SDS's?


  1. When were (Material) Safety Data Sheets "invented"?
  2. What agencies or regulations require us to keep SDS's?
  3. What organizations are exempt from OSHA's SDS regulations?
  4. What is the minimum amount of material that requires an SDS?
  5. What items do (or do not) require SDS's?
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  7. How should we handle SDS requests for materials that do not require an SDS?
  8. Who do I have to give an SDS to and what is "downstream flow"?
  9. What are my rights to an SDS?


  1. What items or formats are required on an SDS?
  2. What do these terms or abbreviations on my SDS mean?
  3. Is there a unique identification code for each chemical?
  4. Does OSHA determine what information is required under health hazard information or can we use our own data?
  5. Do I need to make a new SDS if I mix several other chemicals together (each of which already has an SDS)?
  6. Do I have to write an SDS for new chemicals that I create in the laboratory?
  7. As a distributor, can we change the name and address on an SDS?
  8. Can the identity of a chemical be withheld on an SDS as a trade secret?
  9. Who can write an SDS?
  10. Where does one submit SDS's for official approval?
  11. How do I know if an SDS is accurate?
  12. Are SDS's copyrighted/copyrightable?
  13. Is there an XML standard for SDS's?


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  1. How do I know if my SDS implementation is complete enough to satisfy OSHA?
  2. Do I have to keep every SDS that I receive?
  3. If I have the same chemical from different manufacturers, do I need to keep all their SDS's?
  4. Can I throw away old or outdated SDS's?
  5. Where can I find an SDS for an old chemical?
  6. What if I need an SDS and the manufacturer no longer exists?
  7. Are resources such as the Merck Index or Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) acceptable substitutes for SDS's?
  8. How come I don't always get SDS's when I order chemicals? I thought manufacturers were required to give me one for every chemical I purchase.
  9. When does an SDS need to be revised or replaced?
  10. Do I have to use hard copies or can I use a computer database for SDS's?
  11. What is the "ready access" requirement and what is a "barrier" to ready access?
  12. What are the penalties for non-compliance with SDS requirements?
  13. We have a large site. Does having one site-wide SDS repository satisfy OSHA?
  14. What requirements are there for contractors or multi-employer sites?
  15. How does OSHA want me to organize my SDS filing system?
  16. What's the best solution for me? How do you recommend I handle my SDS collection?
  17. Does the Where to Find SDS's on the Internet page meet the intent of OSHA for SDS availability in the workplace?
  18. Does distributing SDS's to my employees fulfill OSHA's hazard communication training requirement?
  19. Some of my employees don't speak English. Do I have to make any special provisions for these workers?
  20. How much does it cost us to maintain SDS's manually?
  21. Are we protected from liability if someone is injured because an SDS supplied to us is wrong but we had no way of knowing about the error?
  22. Where can I find SDS suppliers or software?
  23. Where can I find SDS or safety-related books and training materials?


  1. When we import a chemical, do we need to make a new SDS?
  2. Where can I get SDS's in other languages such as Spanish?
  3. What language does an SDS need to be in?
  4. Where can I get information about European requirements for SDS format?
  5. How do Canadian SDS's differ from the U.S.?
  6. What about other countries?


  1. Are there any iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android etc. apps for SDS's?
  2. Are SDS's really any good? For example, the SDS for water says to flush with water in case of skin contact.
  3. I need an SDS expert witness.
  4. My question is not on this list. Can you help?

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