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. 

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Where do You Get an SDS? 

SDSs are typically prepared by the manufacturers, importers, or distributors of hazardous substances. They are commonly available in a standardized format with specified sections, allowing for easy access to critical information for the safe handling and transport of the materials. 

How is an SDS Used by Ecommerce Brands?  

Ecommerce brands that handle and ship dangerous goods must adhere to regulations and safety protocols to ensure the safe transportation of such hazardous materials. When it comes to Safety Data Sheets , here are a few ways ecommerce brands typically utilize them: 

1. Generate Supplier Compliance

Ecommerce brands sourcing dangerous goods from suppliers should require them to provide SDSs for the products. The supplier is responsible for preparing the SDSs in accordance with applicable regulations, such as the GHS. 

2. Product Information

The SDS contains essential information about the hazardous material, including its properties, potential hazards, safe handling instructions, and emergency response procedures. Ecommerce brands use this information to understand the risks associated with the product and to educate their employees on proper handling and storage procedures. 

3. Regulatory Compliance

Ecommerce brands must comply with transportation regulations and guidelines specific to dangerous goods. SDSs assist in determining the appropriate packaging, labeling, and documentation requirements for the specific hazardous material. The information in the SDS helps ecommerce brands classify the product correctly and ensures compliance with shipping regulations set by authorities like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) or the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

4. Employee Training

Ecommerce brands should provide comprehensive training to employees, or anyone who may be involved in handling and shipping dangerous goods. This includes a fulfillment provider or any other operations staff.  

5. Customer Communication

Some ecommerce brands may need to provide some information within their SDSs to customers who purchase dangerous goods. This helps customers understand the risks associated with the product and provides guidance on proper handling and storage on their end. 

The main reason that SDSs are important is safety. With the correct information, ecommerce brands can prioritize the safety of their employees, customers, and the general public while their dangerous goods are in transport. Plus they will ensure compliance with regulations governing which will limit any held products or delays in shipping times.  


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