Globally Harmonized System & Safety Data Sheets


What is a (Material) Safety Data Sheet?
A (Material) Safety Data Sheet contains data regarding the properties of a specific substance and is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for the safe handling of a substance. It is a major component of workplace safety and product stewardship and includes information such as physical data, health effects, toxicity, storage and disposal.

What is GHS?
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is an international approach to hazard communication. GHS provides criteria for classification of chemical hazards and a routine approach to label elements and (material) safety data sheets. 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.

What is the Purple Book?
The international negotiation process produced the United Nations’ document “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling Chemicals,” also known as The Purple Book. This document provides a standardized order of information on safety data sheets, 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.

Why are MSDSs now referred to as SDSs?
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard adopted GHS for the purpose of improving information received from other countries. With the adoption of GHS, OSHA has agreed to an international standard, which includes changing the term Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) used in the United States, to the internationally recognized term Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Because the United States is both a major importer and exporter of chemicals, OSHA believes that the standardization of labels and SDSs will help improve information received from and exported to other countries. The adoption of GHS and international standards will help minimize problems caused by diverse national and international requirements for the classification and labeling of chemicals, and promote better global communication.


What are the major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard?
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.

What is the timeline of the revised Hazard Communication Standard?

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

How are SDSs affected by GHS?
GHS will have a profound effect on the chemical data management industry, especially for companies that must author and publish material safety data sheets (MSDSs). MSDSs will now be referred to as safety data sheets (SDSs) under GHS and require significant regulatory updates. These regulatory updates will require revisions in both the content and format of current SDSs, thus causing an “authoring avalanche” for the millions of MSDS documents currently in circulation.

How can TSG help me?
TSG is highly experienced with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) and GHS, 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.

TSG's global services include:

    ▲ Developing OSHA and GHS compliant SDSs in the United States for single chemical substances and complex mixtures

    ▲ Developing hazard labels consistent with corresponding OSHA and GHS compliant SDSs

    ▲ Providing state Right-to-Know (RTK) information for inclusion on SDSs and labels in the United States

    ▲ Developing WHMIS and GHS compliant SDSs in Canada for single chemical substances and complex mixtures

    ▲ Developing hazard labels consistent with corresponding WHMIS and GHS compliant SDSs

    ▲ Developing Classification Labeling and Packaging (CLP)/GHS/REACH compliant SDSs and labels in the European Union

Contact TSG to learn how we can help.


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