The UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) refers to a set of standards surrounding the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) as well as labeling of hazardous chemical containers. For companies, universities, governments, and any other entity that use or handle dangerous chemicals in the workplace to adhere to a unified set of standards, GHS was created, and it applies across the planet. Having one set of rules all over the world like this makes it easier for label consistencies to be maintained and for everyone to interpret what each type of label means. In short, it keeps everyone on the same page.
In the long-term, it makes the process of labeling and using hazardous chemicals easier, safer and less confusing for everyone. However, to reach the point at which you can experience those benefits, you first need to take time to understand the GHS labeling system and what everything means. When you’ve done that, you’ll be able to label hazardous chemicals properly without any issues at all.
If you want to understand more about GHS labeling, you’re in the right place. You can find all the information you require below.
What Does GHS Mean?
Adherence to the GHS system ensures that everyone in the world who deals with dangerous chemicals understands the labels used. It avoids confusion and helps prevent dangerous situations from arising. Hazardous chemicals are frequently shipped across borders, and that’s why the global aspect of the labeling system is so significant. It’s vital that the meaning of a label is the same across all work platforms around the world.
The Importance of GHS Compliance
Compliance with the GHS labeling system is relatively easy. Using things like label templates and understanding the requirements is all that it takes. So by the time you’ve read this guide, you’ll be able to do that. Note that GHS compliance is not enforceable under UN international law, but each country’s workplace regulatory system enforces it. In the USA it falls under OSHA Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910-1200).
Nevertheless, any business or institution that wants to be taken seriously and worked with will need to comply with GHS labeling standards. Most regulatory agencies will make it clear that companies and institutions must comply with GHS as well.
GHS Labeling System and Requirements
- GHS Pictogram: A pictogram is one of the small images that are used on GHS labels to convey a meaning or warning.
- Hazard Statement: It’s necessary to include a brief hazard statement that makes it clear what the hazards associated with the chemical are.
- Precautionary Statement: A precautionary statement will outline precautions to take and what to do in the event of exposure.
- Harmonized Signal Word: Signal words provide vital information sharply and immediately. ‘DANGER’ is one such example of a harmonized signal word.
GHS Signal Words
Signal word means a word used to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to potential danger on the label.
- Danger: The Danger signal word means that the chemical poses severe and immediate risks to humans, such as lasting damage or even death.
- Warning: Warning is a less severe signal word, but it still means that the chemical is dangerous and requires handling with extreme caution.
GHS Hazard Pictograms
- Corrosion: The pictogram for corrosion suggests that eye and skin chemical burns can occur by exposure to the chemical. Also, this symbol applies to compounds that are corrosive to metal.
- Exclamation Mark: An exclamation mark applies when the chemical might cause skin, eye or respiratory tract irritation, can develop skin sensitization, and may cause narcotic effects.
- Flame: This means that the chemical is flammable and can ignite if not handle carefully. This pictogram applies to flammable, pyrophoric, self-heating, and self-reacting materials, and products that emit flammable gas and organic peroxides.
- Health Hazard: Chemicals with a health hazard pictogram can cause cancer, mutations, reproductive problems, respiratory sensitization, and cause aspiration toxicity.
- Gas Cylinder: This pictogram means that the gas contained in the cylinder is under pressure.
- Exploding Bomb: The substance contained in a container with this pictogram can cause an explosion is a self-reactive or is an organic peroxide.
- Flame Over Circle: The flame over a circle applies to all oxidizing substances.
- Environment: This means that the chemical is toxic to aquatic organisms.
- Skull and Crossbones: Applies to products that have acute toxicity that can cause death or severe health adverse effects via inhalation, digestion or direct contact with skin or eyes. Under OSHA’s hazard communication standards, the environmental hazard pictogram is not required.
GHS Hazard Statements
A hazard statement means a phrase assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazards of a hazardous product, including, where appropriate, the degree of danger.
- Physical Hazards: Physical hazards refer to things like fires or explosions and include unstable explosives, flammable gases, and substances that may catch fire.
- Health Hazards: If something is labeled a health hazard, it can cause disease, death on exposure or even mild irritation to the skin. It refers to anything that can damage a person’s’ health in any way.
GHS Precautionary Statements
A precautionary statement means a phrase that describes recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous product, or improper storage or handling of a dangerous product.
Many codes are used to signal necessary precautionary statement information. For example, a code P201 means to obtain special instructions before use. A code P210 tells the user to keep away from heat, hot surfaces, sparks, open flames, and other ignition sources. No smoking. Code P311 instructs the user to call a doctor or poison center in the event of exposure, and code P402 means to store in a dry place.
Now that you have a better understanding of the GHS labeling system, you should already see why the system has value and why it helps businesses and institutions to keep their workplace safer.