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Labelling and safety data sheets

What is a safety data sheet (SDS)?

An SDS (previously called a material safety data sheet) is a document containing important information about a hazardous chemical (which may be a hazardous substance and/or dangerous good) and must:

An SDS for a hazardous chemicals must also state the following information about the chemical (refer to the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (PDF, 2.53 MB) - Schedule 7):

The format and content for a hazardous chemical product SDS is set out in the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 710 kB).

An SDS is an important information source for eliminating or minimising the risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in workplaces.

What are the duties in relation to the preparation of an SDS?

Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals have duties under the WHS Regulation (Section 330) to provide current information about the hazardous chemical in the form of an SDS.

A manufacturer and importer of a hazardous chemical must:

Under section 339, a supplier must provide the current SDS to any person, if the person is likely to be affected by the chemical or asks for the SDS.

A person conducting a business or undertaking may change an SDS for a hazardous chemical only if the person is an importer or manufacturer and:

Note: A person who packages or relabels a hazardous chemical with their own product name is considered to be a manufacturer and therefore has the same obligations as a manufacturer or importer under the WHS Regulations to prepare an SDS.

Access to an SDS

Access to an SDS can be provided to workers in the work area in several ways:

When a workplace adopts a computerised or internet-based SDS database, ensure that the relevant workers have ready access to the information in the work area. Ensure workers have the necessary computer skills to login and access the SDS when required. Also consider how this information can be accessed in an emergency situation if the power is isolated.

The WHS Regulation provides for an exemption for having to obtain and give access to an SDS when:

In these circumstances, the PCBU must ensure sufficient information about the safe use, handling and storage is readily accessible to a worker, emergency service worker or anyone else likely to be exposed to the hazardous chemical at the workplace (refer to Regulation 344).

Registers

The register of an SDS is required under section 346 and should be used as an information tool to make sure everyone is involved in managing hazardous chemicals exposure at the workplace. A register is a list of the hazardous chemical products and the current SDS for each of those products that is readily accessible to a worker and anyone else who is likely to be affected by the hazardous chemical.

Reviewing and amending a SDS

An SDS should be reviewed whenever there is:

It is not necessary to review the SDS if the manufacturer or importer has not manufactured or imported the chemical in the last five years. An SDS should still be available after the hazardous chemical is withdrawn from sale as it may be required by workplaces at a later date.

For an overseas SDS, it is acceptable to have a translation of the SDS attached to the original SDS, provided the appended information clearly states the translation is not part of the original SDS. The original SDS is the SDS prepared in accordance with the WHS Regulation. If an overseas manufacturer's SDS does not comply with the requirements of the WHS Regulation, the importer is responsible for preparing an SDS that does comply.

Labelling of hazardous chemical containers

Manufacturers, importers, suppliers, and PCBUs have specific labelling duties in relation to the correct labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals. Refer to sections 335, 338 and 342 of the WHS Regulation.

The format and content for a hazardous chemical product label is set out in the Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals published by Safe Work Australia.

What is on the label?

The label must be in English and contain the following:

If the manufacturer has amended an SDS, the label should be changed to ensure that it is consistent with the information in the amended SDS.

The WHS Regulations (Schedule 9) include special provisions for specific circumstances including:

Further information on what a label is required to include for those specific circumstances described above are included in the Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 931 kB).

When is a label under the WHS Regulation not required?

There are several types of hazardous chemicals that are excluded from the labelling provisions or exempted from coverage from all provisions in Part 7.1 of the WHS Regulation.

Dual use products

Some hazardous chemicals may be intended for supply to both the consumer household markets and workplaces in identical containers and packaging. These products are sometimes referred to as dual use products. A dual use product label need only comply with the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP) labelling requirements. If the manufacturer or importer determines that the use handling and storage of the product are predominantly related to a work activity, the label must meet WHS requirements.

Food and beverages

Food and beverage products that are packaged in a form intended for consumption do not require labelling under the WHS Regulation. However, large or bulk quantities must be labelled to meet workplace requirements. For example, a 1000 L container of flammable alcoholic spirits must be labelled to meet WHS requirements, while a 750 mL consumer bottle of the same spirits does not.

Therapeutic goods

Therapeutic goods are regarded as correctly labelled under the WHS Regulation when labelled in accordance with Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requirements and in a form:

When not in a form intended for intake or administration to or by a patient or consumer, or for therapeutic purposes, workplace labelling must be used.

For example, a pharmacist repacks a 1 kg container of formulated tablets in smaller containers for dispensing to patients. The 1 kg container must comply with TGA labelling requirements. However, a 1 kg container of the same material in powdered form used by a pharmacist in manufacturing or formulating products must be labelled according to workplace labelling requirements.

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