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The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals


The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals

On June 1, 2015 the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals took effect. This international, standardized approach to hazard communication is meant to offer a logical method to defining health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals and communicating them in a uniform manner on labels and safety data sheets.

The GHS was developed by the United Nations to establish a cohesive method for conveying information on chemical safety and regulations internationally. While compliance with the Globally Harmonized System is not mandated by any global governing entity, it is currently being required by OSHA of chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard Final Rule requires the following mandatory changes:

  • Hazard classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification under the new, updated standard provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards as well as classification of chemical mixtures.

  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category.

  • Safety Data Sheets: The new format requires 16 specific sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of important protection information.

  • Information and training: To facilitate understanding of the new system, the new standard required that workers be trained by December 1, 2013 on the new label elements and safety data sheet format, in addition to the current training requirements.
The anticipated benefits of the Globally Harmonized System are many. OSHA anticipates the modifications will prevent over 500 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 fatalities annually. 1 It is also expected to:
  • Make for safer work environments through:
    • Improved consistency of hazard information available to employees
    • Enhanced worker comprehension of hazards resulting in safer handling and use of chemicals
  • Provide workers quicker and more efficient access to information on the safety data sheets
  • Save American businesses more than $475 million in productivity improvements
  • Reduce global trade barriers
The GHS has already been implemented by the Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition to OSHA, adoption is currently underway by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Maxxon Corporation is compliant with the new global harmonization standards.


MSDSonline (n.d.) 10 GHS Facts in 60 Seconds

US Department of Labor, Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (n.d.) OSHA Fact Sheet – Hazard Communication Standard Final Rule.

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