GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. It is a set of guidelines that provides specific criteria for two processes: hazard classification and hazard communication. GHS is not an organization; it is a system that countries around the world are adopting into their existing hazard communication programs. The goal of GHS is to harmonize the way hazardous information is defined and presented throughout the world, which ultimately will better protect the end user. With the the June 2015 deadline for manufacturers’ and distributors’ compliance in labels and Safety Data Sheets rapidly approaching, it’s important that everyone is familiar with the changes that GHS will bring about.
To determine which hazard classes a chemical is categorized into, GHS provides criteria based on physical properties and existing data about the product, such as toxicity values or biodegradability. There are three different hazard classes. Physical hazards include explosives, flammables, and oxidizers. Health hazards include skin and eye irritation, target organ toxicity, and reproductive toxicity. Environmental hazards include aquatic toxicity and ozone layer hazards. These subsets of the hazard class are called hazard categories. Within each hazard category, a chemical is then further classified based on its severity using a numbering system. Category 1 is the most severe and Category 5 is the least severe.
Once a product is classified, GHS sets criteria for labels and safety data sheets. Each product label must have the following six components:
GHS also outlines criteria for Safety Data Sheets, or SDS. In addition to removing the word ‘Material’ from Material Safety Data Sheets, GHS created a 16-section format for SDS to follow. For more information on SDS, see the upcoming blog post on Safety Data Sheets.
Check out the Multi-Clean GHS Training Program webpage for PowerPoint presentations and other resources for training employees and customers on GHS formatted labels and safety data sheets. This program can be used to train a large group or for self-training.