What is a Safety Data Sheet? How Ecommerce Brands Need to Use Them in Shipping

A Safety Data Sheet, more commonly known as SDS (formerly MSDSs or Material Safety Data Sheets), is a document that provides detailed information about potentially hazardous substances or materials contained in goods being shipped. It is a document containing information about hazardous materials in a shipment. It contains a UN Number, a four-digit number identifying dangerous or hazardous substances and goods. It is an important component of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), which is an international standard for classifying and communicating chemical hazards.  

Many ecommerce brands need to ship products that are classified as dangerous goods (also known as hazardous material or hazmat). This means they contain materials that need special labeling, handling, and shipping environment. Common dangerous goods include lithium ion batteries found in consumer electronics, ethanol or alcohol found in perfumes and cosmetics, or other flammable liquids that may be in hair dye, cleaning products, or paints.  

There are different shipping specifications required for different types of hazardous items. Obtaining an SDS for any products considered dangerous goods is the first step in properly labeling and handling those goods.  

Why do Ecommerce Brands Need an SDS?  

The purpose of an SDS is to ensure the safe handling, transportation, and use of hazardous goods. It contains information about the physical and chemical properties of the substance, its potential hazards, recommended safety precautions, emergency response procedures, and other relevant data. SDSs also include information about the proper disposal methods and regulatory compliance requirements for the substance. 

When it comes to shipping hazardous materials, SDSs play a crucial role in providing essential information to carriers, handlers, and emergency responders. They help ensure compliance with transportation regulations, such as those set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for maritime shipping or the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for air transportation. SDSs are required by OSHA under its Hazard Communication Standard.