Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is an international approach to hazard communication. GHS provides criteria for the classification of chemical hazards and a routine approach to label elements and safety data sheets (SDSs). GHS was negotiated and agreed upon by hazard communication experts from various countries, international organizations and stakeholder groups. GHS was formed with major existing systems around the world in mind, including The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard and the chemical classification and labeling systems of other U.S. agencies.

This negotiation process produced the United Nations’ document “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling Chemicals,” also known as The Purple Book. A standardized order of information on SDSs is provided, along with classification criteria for health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals. Additionally, it outlines criteria for standardized label elements that are assigned to these hazard classes and categories, and provides appropriate signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements to convey the hazards to users.

With the creation of GHS, OSHA decided to modify the Hazard Communication Standard to adopt GHS. The reason for this being that, because the United States is both a major importer and exporter of chemicals, standardized labels and SDSs will help improve information received from other countries. Since diverse national and international requirements can sometimes create confusion and conflict, adopting GHS will minimize these problems and chemicals being imported and exported will have consistent information to promote better global communication.

Globally Harmonized System

The three major areas of change are in hazard classification, labels and safety data sheets:

Hazard classification:  The definitions of hazard have been changed to provide specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria will help to ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate as a result.;

Labels:  Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.

Safety Data Sheets:  Will now have a specified 16-section format.

The table below summarizes the phase-in dates required under the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS):

Effective Completion Date Requirement(s) Who
December 1, 2013 Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format. Employers
June 1, 2015*

December 1, 2015
Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule, except:

The Distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers
June 1, 2016 Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. Employers
Transition Period to the effective completion dates noted above May comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (the final standard), or the current standard, or both Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers

*This date coincides with the EU implementation date for classification of mixtures

TSG is highly experienced with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, the regulatory framework governing SDS creation for the labeling of chemicals in the workplace in the United States. TSG is prepared to help clients make the transition to the new HCS requirements that now incorporate GHS regulations.  Similarly, TSG is experienced in developing Canadian Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) compliant SDSs and labels, and will be ready for the pending transition to GHS in Canada.  TSG is highly knowledgeable of the different SDS standards, and provides quick, efficient, high quality SDS and
label development services.