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GHS and Hazardous Communication: Are You Ready?

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | August 1, 2013 | Comments Off on GHS and Hazardous Communication: Are You Ready?

Irritant, Skin Sensitizer, Acute Toxicity, Narcotic Effects, Respiratory Tract, Hazardous to Ozone

Do you know what this pictogram means in the above photo? Do your employees know? The pictogram seen above is one of nine new pictograms found on labels for chemicals. Why are these required? The newly adopted Globally Harmonized System has six new label elements and pictograms are one of them.

There is a training deadline looming. What does the EHS professional do? They find a solution. 

GHS Webinar Dec 1

The GHS training requirement for December 1, 2013 requires employers to train employees on the six new label elements and the standardized 16-section Safety Data Sheet. The Globally Harmonized System is a system for standardizing and harmonizing classification and labeling of chemicals created by the UN in 2003 and adopted by all countries. We live in a global world of trade with products shipped and distributed from many different countries. There was a need to communicate the hazards of these chemicals in a way that could transcend language barriers.

Employers must continue to follow the 29CFR1910.1200 Hazardous Communication standard which requires a written plan and Hazardous Communication training annually and upon hire. It is also recommended to train employees if there has been a spill or an exposure to a hazardous material. A good review of your written Hazard Communication Plan and survey of work areas would be in order after an incident. You will need to check if there are any gaps in your programs or equipment which might lead to accidental employee exposure. has a newly developed GHS and OSHA Hazardous Communication course available in English and Spanish. This course was developed by subject matter experts in Environmental Health and Safety. Do not forget to train employees regarding the location of SDS and site specific chemical hazards, in addition to required controls or PPE. Training and repetition will be the key in aiding your employees to recognize the new pictograms, labels elements, and new SDS sections. Get your free OSHA quick card regarding pictograms.


Here are some interesting statistics regarding GHS and OSHA’s Hazardous Communication Standard

  1. Over  50 million workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in their workplaces.
  2. Over five million businesses will be impacted by the new GHS requirements for labeling and SDS (formerly MSDS).
  3. HCS (Hazardous Communication Standard) covers some 650,000 hazardous chemical products found in over five million establishments.

In 2012, OSHA issued 4,696 citations for Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200) violations (mainly due to lack of training, labeling fail, access to MSDSs and lacking correct MSDSs).


Remember to label all containers (temporary too), and if labels are missing contact the manufacturer or place labels on the container. Employees handling chemicals should be trained and made accountable to do this task as well.


Training must be conducted regarding Hazardous Communication – it is required. For example in construction, the leading citation issued by OSHA for many years was a lack of the MSDS  on the job site. There were businesses who felt they were not covered under the HCS standard.

Access to SDS

Employees need access to the SDS (formerly MSDS) at all times, even on a temporary job site. If the supervisor locks the SDS  up in his office or truck, well, that is a huge problem. Employees can also access SDS information electronically. Again, they will need to know where the information is located. As you do inspections of your facility or job site spot check chemicals against the SDS to make sure you have the right on inventory.

Don’t worry about “over” training when it comes to safety. Remember, we are here to help too.

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