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Some Frequently Asked Questions about GHS HAZCOM

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | September 24, 2013 | Comments Off on Some Frequently Asked Questions about GHS HAZCOM

Some Frequently Asked Questions about GHS HAZCOM

This post is part of a series of blog posts we’re writing on the upcoming GHS HAZCOM update.

What is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS)?

GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Implemented by the United Nations, GHS is a system that applies to the manufacture, labeling, hazard communication of chemicals all over the world. OSHA’s HAZCOM standard is being aligned with the GHS to improve safe chemical handling, information, and labeling of hazardous chemicals  in the United States.

What are some key GHS vocabularies that I should know about?

GHS Webinar Dec 1

Signal Word – Signal words are used to communicate the hazard level of chemicals on the label and the safety data sheets. GHS implements the use of two signal words which are: DANGER and WARNING. It has to be noted, however, that only one signal word will be used for a chemical. “Warning” is used for less dangerous chemicals while “danger” is used for more dangerous substances.

Pictogram – The pictogram is a symbol framed by a red border that appears on the label and SDS.

SDS – Safety data sheet (SDS) will now be the term used in place of the material safety data sheet (MSDS). It comes in a standard 16-section format.  The purpose of the safety data sheet is to provide workers and emergency personnel with instructions and information for safe handling and response procedures.

Hazard GroupsGHS categorizes hazards into three types: health, physical and environmental.

ClassClass is the term used to identify the different types of hazards under a hazard group.

CategoryCategories are basically sub-sections of classes. They are represented by numbers or letters.

Hazard StatementThe hazard statement is a standardized statement used to describe a hazard. It appears on the chemical label and the SDS.  

When will the GHS take effect?

Here are some of the dates that everyone should take note of based on OSHA’s Fact Sheet on the Hazard Communication Standard Final Rule:

December 1, 2013 –   Employees should be trained on the new label elements, hazard recognition system, and SDS format.

June 1, 2015 – GHS will fully take effect on this date. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers need to comply with all modified provisions of the final rule by this date. (As an exception, distributors can still ship chemicals labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015.)

June 1, 2016 – Employers should provide their staff necessary up-training before this date for newly identified hazards. Employers should also update their hazard communication program as needed.

How can employers prepare for the update?

Employers can prepare for this update by training employees regarding GHS HAZCOM training. Keeping inventories updated, especially the status of safety data sheets, will also ease the transition to the new system. (Following GHS implementation, SDS and labels originating within and beyond the Untied States will share the same elements.)

Where can I get more information on GHS? has a dedicated page for the upcoming GHS update. You can also see my webinar here or download my presentation about the GHS update.

Don’t get left behind and enroll in our GHS HAZCOM course. Visit this page for further information.

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