The University of Iowa

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Chemwatch  (SDS Access)

Access to the SDS library is restricted to University of Iowa/University of Iowa Health Care faculty, staff, and students.

Contact information and areas of expertise can be found on the Contact Us page.

What is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)? 

  • An SDS (formerly known as MSDS) includes information such as the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical.
  • It provides guidance for each specific chemical on things such as:
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • First aid procedures
    • Spill clean-up procedures

Who needs to have SDSs? 

  • OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) and Lab Safety Standard (1910.1450) both require that SDSs be readily accessible during each work shift to employees when they are in their work area(s).
  • Laboratories, facilities or shops that use chemicals must obtain an SDS that is specific to each chemical used in the workplace.

How do you obtain an SDS? 

The University of Iowa retains a contract with Chemwatch, an online database that maintains SDS for the University community. Each PI/area manager is expected to keep an up-to-date manufacturer-specific chemical inventory in EHS Assist. So long as the PI/area manager does this, corresponding SDS will be available in Chemwatch.

If the chemical inventory in EHS Assist is complete and up-to-date, the PI/area manager does not need to acquire SDSs themselves.

If you do not have access to Chemwatch due to an incomplete inventory, the PI/area manager is still responsible for having manufacturer-specific SDS available for lab workers. To obtain SDS, get them from the manufacturer.

  • They may be sent with the chemical order (paper copy or e-mail attachment).
  • Otherwise, go to the manufacturer’s website and download it or request a copy.

If you cannot obtain a vendor-specific SDS, replace the chemical with one for which an SDS is available. If that is not feasible, contact John Silka at 335-8031.

How do you store/maintain SDSs?

Chemwatch, the online database, both maintains SDS and updates them as needed for the University community. SDS are normally available through the online database. In the event of a power outage or loss of network capability, SDS are available by calling the Chemwatch phone number. The SDS can be read to you or faxed to a location of your choosing.

If you do not have access to Chemwatch due to an incomplete inventory, the PI/area manager is responsible for maintaining and updating manufacturer-specific SDS for workers.

  • SDSs can be stored electronically or as paper copies.
  • SDSs must be stored in a location that all staff can access during work hours (not behind a locked door or on a password-protected device to which they do not have the password).
  • SDSs must be stored in the work area (not far away or in another building).
  • If electronic copies are used, SDSs must still be available if the area loses electricity or internet access.
    • Back-up options include:
      • A laptop with PDFs (or any electronic file type) on the local hard drive.
      • PDFs downloaded onto a USB stick.
      • A computer with PDFs on the local hard drive that is hooked up to a battery back-up or plugged into an outlet on a back-up generator (red outlets).

Note: You may not use Google (or any search engine) as your lab’s means of SDS access. Furthermore, you may not expect your staff to access SDS through their personal smart phones.



All employees must be trained on how to read, understand, and access Safety Data Sheets. If the lab employs both a primary means of SDS access and a back-up secondary means of access, both methods should be covered during training. Training must be documented for each employee through the completion of one of the courses listed below.

Lab Chemical Safety - W008CM

  • EHS generic training course is required initially and recommended annually. To finish your training requirement, you must also know specific information unique to your own work area. Use the Site-Specific Training checklist located within the course content to review site-specific training items with your supervisor or designated work area trainer.
  • Audience: Persons who work with chemicals in research labs.

HazCom with GHS - W115OS

  • This course is required initially and recommended annually. It provides information about handling hazardous chemicals in the workplace. 
  • Audience: Personnel using chemicals in areas other than labs. 

For further training and registration information, go to EHS Safety Training.

External Links