4 tips for the translation of safety data sheets

Published on 12/01/2021

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are essential documents for managing the risks inherent in chemical substances. It is mandatory to translate the safety data sheets into the local language of the country where the products are to be used. Here are four essential aspects to apply for translations.

Check that the instructions in the original document are followed

Check that the instructions in the original document are followed

The purpose of safety data sheets is to provide professionals with all the information on a given chemical substance used in order to provide the best response to possible risks that may arise.

These sheets help to improve the handling and use of substances in a way that is adapted to the chemical risks.

At international and European level, safety data sheets include 16 points.

Before translating safety data sheets, you should make sure that the original document complies with the requirements of the EU's safety data sheets instructions on how to prepare a safety data sheetas stated by EcoMundo, a company specialised in chemicals.

Comply with legislation in relation to translation of SDSs

Comply with legislation in relation to translation of SDSs

Why is it necessary to translate safety data sheets? The translation of safety data sheets into local languages is mandatory by law in almost all countries.

Most countries have adopted a uniform system of classification and labelling of chemical hazards.

Substances are handled by professionals from all walks of life and their health and safety at work is at stake.

If in doubt, it is best to contact a translation agency with experience in translating safety data sheets.

Correctly translate the sentences P and H

Correctly translate the sentences P and H

The letters P and H and the three numbers following them correspond to codes called phrases which are used in the labelling and packaging of substances. They characterise the safety advice (in the case of the letter P) and the hazard statements (letter H).

Each phrase is described and officially translated into all 23 EU languages as part of the REACH chemical registration process. Translations are available on the website of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Provides translations adapted to local markets

Provides translations adapted to local markets

The translation of the safety data sheets must be submitted in due form to the competent authorities in each country to allow the chemicals to be placed on the market. Below is a list of some of the target countries or regions to which SDS translations are often directed:

  •  The European Union
    The European REACH regulation regulates the drafting and requires the translation of safety data sheets into the language of the countries where the substances are to be used.
  • The United States
    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides the tools necessary to write SDSs, which are equivalent to SDSs. Since 2012, the United States is also implementing the 16-point Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).
  • China
    China is another country where the GHS has been enabled since 2011. This means that for chemicals listed in the catalogue of hazardous chemicals, the State Agency for Work Safety has published harmonised chemical classifications of these substances.
    The safety data sheets must be translated into simplified Chinese in order to be considered valid by China.
  • Japan
    The Industrial Health and Safety Law regulates the preparation of Safety Data Sheets in Japan. Since 2018, the instructions have been translated into English, which may facilitate certain translation procedures.

The specificity of certain countries, however, makes it necessary to use a specialised translation agency to translate safety data sheets and technical translations.

Relying on translators inexperienced in this field is likely to lead to misrepresentation or mislabelling, which can have catastrophic consequences.

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Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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