Thousands of substances are used in workplaces and loads of information is available in books and on the web. With so much material available, it can be difficult to find relevant information quickly. A relatively easy way to find key information about a substance is to look at its:
- Hazard label; and/or
- Safety Data Sheet (SDS);
If a substance is hazardous, information about the hazards should be shown on the label on its packaging; this is required by law*. Information about the hazard(s) is presented in the form of symbols (known as pictograms), signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements.
Fatal if swallowed
Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product
*The Classification Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation is intended to ensure that the hazards presented by chemicals are clearly communicated to workers and consumers.
Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
A SDS should be provided by suppliers for most substances that are considered to be harmful; this is required by law*. The SDS contains information on the hazards of the substance, advice on handling and storage, first aid and accidental release measures, exposure controls and personal protection, and information on transport and disposal. The SDS also provides information on how to manage risks associated with that substance.
*The specific law covering SDSs is called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals). REACH is about controlling harmful chemicals and came into force in the UK in 2007.
Other sources of information
HSE publishes leaflets on a number of substances, such as lead, chromium, arsenic, beryllium and silica
Information on chemicals can also be found in the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Classification and Labelling Inventory