Skip to Main Content

Course & Subject Guides

Chemical Safety - Oakland Campus

This guide is designed primarily to support the chemical safety education effort of the Department of Chemistry on the Oakland campus, but it should be useful to anyone working with chemicals at the University of Pittsburgh.

What are Safety Data Sheets?

A Safety Data Sheet, or SDS, (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS) is a document compiling data on a chemical substance with the goal of guiding users on its safe use and handling. The sheets are provided by the chemical manufacturer, distributor, or importer and contain information on substance identification, company contacts, physical properties, chemical behavior, hazards, proper handling, and emergency response.

In conjunction with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of the U.N., OSHA now prescribes 16 standard sections for SDSs. Become familiar with these standard sections and their content by reviewing the documents below:

Look for practical laboratory information in sections such as the following:

  • Hazards identification
  • First aid measures                                                                                                              
  • Firefighting measures
  • Spill or accidental release measures
  • Handling and storage
  • Exposure controls/Personal protection
  • Physical and chemical properties
  • Stability and reactivity
  • Disposal considerations

Finding Safety Data Sheets

The chemical stock room keeps copies of SDSs that are shipped by manufacturers along with their chemicals. However, you can find SDSs readily at a number of different web sites, including those of the manufacturing and distributing companies.

International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSC)

International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSC) are separate from SDSs, but contain similar types of information. They are a joint effort of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) and are peer-reviewed. They are produced in English and then translated into a variety of languages.