SHOULD I TRANSLATE MY SDS USING A FREE ONLINE SERVICE?

The answer to that question depends upon your risk tolerance. If you are able to afford all the consequences of having a non-compliant SDS going out with your shipments, then by all means, use a free online machine translation for your health and safety guidance. Would you also put your Last Will and Testament through it? If so, you have a higher risk tolerance than 99.9999% of the rest of us.

This is not an attempt to bash online MT services. The tools available to translate material at no cost online are very good if used properly. For example, you bring up a web page in another language and you want to read it in English, selecting the “Translate this page” option can provide you with a close approximation of what the original web page contains. Is it a precise translation, no, but most likely it will be good enough for you to understand the original meaning. Will it contain errors? Almost certainly, but the errors are not significant when it comes to reading a news article or for general knowledge about a subject.

When it comes to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and SDS translation, you need your document to be not just translated, but also compliant with various regulations. Google is not an SDS Authoring system. In fact, Google uses a statistical approach that looks at the likelihood a match exists in the language pair you are using for each Translation Unit (TU), normally a sentence or block of text. If a close match exists, then that is what appears in your document. No matter how well the text reads, there is no intelligence behind the scenes ensuring the correct regulatory references are applied to the SDS translation.

An example of a fairly common SDS phrase is translated into Maltese:

DO NOT handle, store or open near an open flame, sources of heat or sources of ignition. Protect material from direct sunlight.

Using Google Translate:

DO NOT manku, jaħżnu jew miftuħ viċin fjamma miftuħa, sorsi ta ‘sħana jew sorsi ta’ qbid. Ipproteġi materjal minn xemx diretta.

By a professional translator:

M’GĦANDEKX tiġġestixxi, taħżen jew tiftaħ qrib fjamma mingħajr protezzjoni, sorsi ta’ sħana jew sorsi ta’ tqabbid. Ipproteġi il-materjal minn dawl tax-xemx diretta.

So now you are thinking, sure, pick an obscure language like Maltese. Certainly it will do better in a more mainstream language like Spanish. In this example, a chemical name is translated into Spanish:

1,2,4-BENZENETRICARBOXYLIC ACID, DECYL OCTYL ESTER

Using Google Translate:

Ácido 1,2,4-BENZENETRICARBOXÍLICO, DECYL OCTYL ESTER

By a professional translator:

ÁCIDO 1,2,4-BENCENOTRICARBOXÍLICO, ÉSTER DECIL OCTÍLICO

The only way to do SDS translations with confidence is to have them done by a subject matter expert whom you can ask to show you which regulatory references were used when doing the SDS translation.

Share
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>