Globally Harmonized Standards: What You Need to Know

Jim Dennison

June 1, 2015

What is GHS?

  • GHS is an acronym for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.
  • The intent is to have a standardized system of classifying and labelling chemicals on a global scale.

Who developed GHS?

  • The United Nations developed the system.

Why is it necessary?

  • Regulatory systems are already in place in many countries, but the differences in their systems can be significant enough to require many different classifications. GHS is
    meant to provide a universal,
    standardized format for the communication of hazard classification and communication format.
  • Ultimately, it should lead to improved worker safety.

Where is it being implemented?

  • It is being implemented globally; however, compliance is not mandatory. Examples are below.
    • South Korea and China are using it now.
    • The Middle East has not adopted it yet.
    • Australia and Europe have similar systems in place. Their systems will require minor modifications to match up with GHS.

When will it be implemented?

  • In the United States, manufacturers of products that contain hazardous chemicals must be GHS compliant by June 1, 2015.
  • Distributors of products from manufacturers must ship products that have GHS-compliant labelling by December 1, 2015.
  • Material Safety Data Sheets
    • All Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) will be converted to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) in 2015.
    • This will coincide with the roll out of new Foster product labelling.
  • Product labelling
    • All Foster products will have GHS-compliant labels effective June 1, 2015.
    • Distributors may sell products with current labelling through November 30, 2015.
    • Distributors must ship GHS-compliant labels after December 1, 2015

Two Major Elements of GHS Hazard Classification
(Health, Physical, and Environmental)

  • Classification is based on individual chemical components and the degree of hazard.
    • If a product contains a hazardous component >0.1%, it must be communicated on the SDS and have appropriate warnings, and possibly pictograms, on the label.
    • For example: If a product potentially contains as little as 0.1% or greater of a residual monomer, it could require a “Cancer” hazard warning on the product.

Hazard Communication (Safety Data Sheet, and Label)–Two Methods

  • Pictograms–These are the graphics depicting the type of danger (i.e., flame, exclamation point, etc.) that are surrounded by the red diamond shown in Figure 1 above.
  • Signal words (“Warning” or “Danger”).