Your Guide to the New Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals

Man, that’s a mouthful. So what is it?

The new Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (otherwise known as GHS) is a global effort to standardize chemical hazard classification across countries. OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has adopted these standards for workplace hazard communication in the United States.

The main updates in the new standard affect chemical labelling from the manufacturer and Material Safety Data Sheets (now known under GHS as just Safety Data Sheet or SDS).

Chemicals that are classified under the new standards as hazardous must now show hazard pictograms, signal words and hazard statements on their labeling.

Pictogram Explanation Graphic

There are a few exceptions to this; for example, EPA-registered products are, by law, not allowed to have GHS pictograms or information on their labels because these products are already regulated under FIFRA regulations.

Safety Data Sheets have also been updated. They also show the new hazard pictograms, signal words and hazard statements, along with a new 16-section format with additional safety information.

Safety Data Sheet Explanation Graphic

What does this mean for me?

For employers, it means updating your HazCom program to include GHS standards. This includes training of staff, updating Safety Data Sheets (replacing MSDS) and ensuring all product labeling is in compliance. An important factor to note; workplace container labeling requirements (i.e. secondary bottles, etc) have not changed. You simply need to ensure your current system does not contradict any GHS information.

For distributors and manufacturers, this means ensuring chemicals have correct, compliant labeling as well as making updated SDS available to those using their product.

Effective Dates

This table summarizes the phase-in dates required under the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).

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

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