Thursday, June 6, 2013

What is Globally Harmonized System (GHS)?

Most employers are aware of the significant changes to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 1910.1200.  This change is notably to bring the U.S. into alignment with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), but what is this system?

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is an international approach to hazard communication, providing agreed criteria for classification of chemical hazards, and a standardized approach to label elements and safety data sheets. The GHS was negotiated in a multi-year process by hazard communication experts from many different countries, international organizations, and stakeholder groups. It is based on major existing systems around the world, including OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard and the chemical classification and labeling systems of other US agencies.

The result of this negotiation process is the United Nations' document entitled "Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals," commonly referred to as The Purple Book. This document provides harmonized classification criteria for health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals. It also includes standardized label elements that are assigned to these hazard classes and categories, and provide the appropriate signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements to convey the hazards to users. A standardized order of information for safety data sheets is also provided. These recommendations can be used by regulatory authorities such as OSHA to establish mandatory requirements for hazard communication, but do not constitute a model regulation.

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