In 2012, the U.S. adopted the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, or GHS for short.
GHS is designed to effectively communicate chemical hazards uniformly, so that each label and SDS is set up similarly and easy to understand.
All of the compliance deadlines for GHS have passed, meaning that everyone should be in full compliance with GHS, and you should know how to read and understand GHS labels and SDS’s.
This GHS Focus will go a bit more in-depth into what is behind these GHS labels and SDS’s, in terms of hazards, pictograms, and label elements. There are also some special cases you need to be aware of that may cause some confusion when trying to read a GHS label or SDS.
One of these special cases that causes a lot of confusion relates to corrosivity of skin and eyes.
For many materials, pH is the key factor in determining if the material is corrosive to skin or eyes. A pH inside the range of 2 – 11.5 is not considered corrosive, but a pH less than 2 or greater than 11.5 is generally considered corrosive.
Therefore, by looking at the pH of a product you can USUALLY determine if should be considered corrosive.
However, there are some cases where the pH determination is overruled by other factors.
One of these factors is testing data that determines corrosivity. If testing data shows that a product is not corrosive to skin, but rather an irritant, then this data takes priority over the pH value, regardless of whether or not it is in the “corrosive” range.
For a real life example:
OSHA requires eye wash stations be present whenever chemicals are present that are corrosive to the eye. You are using a chemical with a pH of 1. so logic would dictate that this chemical is corrosive to the eye, and an eye wash station should be required. However, the chemical uses special technology that causes it to be an irritant to the eye, not a corrosive. There is testing data to support the claim that the product is not corrosive to the eye. In this case, the testing data takes precedence, and the chemical should not be considered corrosive. An eye wash station should not be required in this particular scenario.
Although GHS is already in full compliance, taking the time to get to know what we are really dealing with can be very helpful in recognizing the potential risks of chemicals, leading to a safer workplace and environment.
For a more in-depth look at GHS, check out our GHS Technical Bulletin.
For help with GHS training, visit our GHS Training webpage.