Safety Data Sheets

Small Farm and Gardening Safety and Health Series
Agriculture and Natural Resources
S. Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor and State Safety Leader, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Jeffery Suchy, Graduate Student and Lecturer, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Farmers and gardeners are exposed to many chemicals and materials that may cause injury or be hazardous to their health. Even chemicals used in organic operations may be considered hazardous. It is important to review all product labels and the associated Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) provided by the manufacturer for proper handling of hazardous chemicals and materials. SDSs should be kept with or near where chemicals or materials are stored so that they can be easily referenced. An electronic version can also be kept in a computer file that is easily accessible.

What Is an SDS?

• An SDS provides important product information for:
• Workers who use, handle and store hazardous substances.
• Employers who must provide safe storage, use and disposal of hazardous substances.
• Employers who must provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees on the job.
• Emergency personnel, such as fire fighters, paramedics and hazmat crews, who must respond in case of a spill, accident or injury. 

What Information Does an SDS Provide?

An SDS provides important information about a chemical, including a description of its inherent characteristics. The information is contained in sections, typically 1–16. Other versions may be available, but all should include the following basic information.
• Product and Company Information: Includes manufacturer or distributor name, emergency contact information, recommended use and restrictions on use.
• Hazard(s) Identification: Includes all hazards regarding the chemical and required labeling.
• Composition/Information on Ingredients: Lists details on chemical ingredients and trade-secret claims.
• First-Aid Measures: Lists symptoms and effects, both acute and delayed, as well as required treatment.
• Fire-Fighting Measures: Lists extinguishing techniques and equipment, and chemical hazards from fire.
• Accidental Release Measures: Lists emergency procedures, protective equipment, and proper methods of containment and cleanup.
• Handling and Storage: Lists precautions for safe handling and storage, including incompatibilities.
• Exposure Controls and Personal Protection: Lists OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), appropriate engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
• Physical and Chemical Properties: Lists the chemical’s characteristics.
• Stability and Reactivity: Lists chemical stability and possibility of hazardous reactions.
• Toxicological Information: Includes routes of exposure; related symptoms; acute and chronic affects; and numerical measures of toxicity.
• Ecological Information: Describes the toxicity, persistence and degradability, bioaccumulative potential, soil mobility and other adverse effects.
• Disposal Considerations: Lists the regulatory disposal information and waste treatment methods.
• Transport Information: Lists specific transportation requirements for chemical.
• Regulatory Information: Lists chemical-specific safety, health, and environmental regulations/legislation.
• Other Information: Lists other relevant information, as appropriate.

How to Use an SDS

Having the SDS available is important, but it is equally important to be trained and know how to use one in the event of an emergency. Know where SDSs are located and how to efficiently find the appropriate one. At a minimum, workers should have the ability to:
• Make the SDS available to emergency personnel, if necessary.
• Determine the proper PPE required to handle the chemical.
• Demonstrate safe handling procedures.
• Identify symptoms associated with acute exposure when handling the chemical.
• Determine proper first-aid procedures for acute exposure.
• Determine procedures to properly handle a spill or leak.
• Store the chemical properly when job is complete.
• Ask a supervisor questions regarding safe handling of the chemical.


• Jepsen, S.D., Michael Wonacott, Peter Ling, and Thomas Bing. Tailgate Safety Training for Landscaping and Horticultural Services: Material Safety Data Sheet, AEX-192.1.29. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Extension, 2006.

Reviewer: Kent McGuire, CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering