Translating Safety in Your Workplace: SDS Translation

In a previous post, we talked about ways to get started with workplace safety translation. Now, we’re going to focus on one particular topic: SDS translation.

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are required by all chemical manufacturers, distributors and importers. They communicate the hazards of chemical products. SDSs are required in the workplace if there are chemicals present. Moreover, SDSs should be translated if your employees speak (or better understand) languages other than English. What are some best practices and tips?

Consistent Language

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) was created by the United Nations in 1992. It is not fully implemented globally at this time. However, the GHS has been established to unify hazard communication and labelling across borders. Each country seemed to have their own standards, labels, and classifications. With an increasingly global economy, this became a challenge for international trade of chemicals to ensure information was communicated properly.

Under GHS, all SDSs must be created in a uniform format using 16 headings. More information can be found here.

SDS Translation Around the World

We could go into a lot more detail about SDS regulations around the world, but we wanted to touch on a few key facts.


South Africa has a national standard SANS 101234 as part of their adoption and implementation of GHS.

Asia Pacific

The GHS is currently implemented in many Asia Pacific countries. The level of implementation and enforcement varies from country to country. Here are a few fast facts:

  • Chinese SDSs should be written in Simplified Chinese with chemical identification in both Chinese and English
  • India has, thus far, not implemented GHS, though regulation has been discussed
  • Indonesia requires all labels and SDSs to be written in Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) have combined their SDS and labeling standards into one (JIS Z 7253)
  • Malaysia’s Industry Code of Practice on Chemicals Classification and Hazard Communication (ICOP) requires labels and SDSs to be provided in both English and Malay
  • Thailand requires all labels and SDSs to be written in Thai
  • Labels and SDSs in Vietnam must be written in Vietnamese and be compliant with Circular No. 04/2012/TT-BCT


Chemical safety in the European Union (28 member states) is regulated by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Chemicals are classified and labelled according to the CLP Regulation and the GHS. ECHA mandates that SDSs and exposure standards be provided in the official language of the country where the chemical is supplied. They provided a list of languages, per country, as a “cheat sheet.”

North America

Mexico, the United States, and Canada have adopted the GHS. Each of these three nations is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As such, all SDSs must be NAFTA compliant and based on each countries standards. Here’s some valuable information below:

  • SDSs must be fully translated into English, French, and Spanish
  • Dates of preparation, revision, and previous issue must be included
  • Units and numbers must be presented in International System of Units (SI) and Imperial (US customary) measurement systems

The United States Hazard Communications Standards (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)) lists the proper format for SDSs. SDSs must be in English, but OSHA does say that safety information should be presented in a both a language and vocabulary that employees can understand.

South America

Brazil is the world’s 6th largest chemical consumer. The Portuguese-speaking nation implemented the GHS in 2011 (ABNT NRB 14725:2009).

Ensuring Accurate Translation

The language in an SDS is very specific to a particular industry. It is important to use linguists who have background knowledge in chemicals along with environment, health and safety (EHS). Using native speakers will also help to ensure translated content complies with local rules and regulations.

In addition, content can be very repetitive. A language services provider should have translation memory (TM) which stores all of your previously translated content. Leveraging translation memory will allow for consistent content, cost savings, and inefficiencies with turnaround time.

Request a Quote


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *