Understanding the New GHS Labeling System. The new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals came into effect in May 2012 and since then it has been implemented throughout the world. Its major purpose is to improve safety and health protections for employees that use, handle or store chemicals that subject them to the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. The Hazard Communication Standard Final Rule in 1983 gave the workers the ‘right to know,’ but the new Globally Harmonized System gives workers the ‘right to understand. The three critical deadlines and their requirements are:

  1. December 1, 2013: completed training of employees on the new label elements and SDS format.
  2. June 1 2015: compliance of chemical manufacturers, importers, distributers and employers with all modified provisions of the final rule 29 CFR 1910.1200. Distributers may still ship products with old labels made by manufacturers until December 1, 2015.
  3. June 1, 2016: employers’ update to the new workplace labeling and hazard communication program.

The most important changes to the Hazard Communication Standard concern:

  1. Hazard classification:

It provides distinct criteria for the classification of chemical mixtures according to their health and physical hazards. Chemical manufacturers and importers have to define the hazards of their chemical products and their employees need to know the meaning of each hazard statement phrase and the impact on their safety.

  1. Labels:

Every label must include the product identifier, a signal word, a pictogram, a hazard statement, a precautionary statement, and the supplier identification for each hazard class and category.

  1. Safety Data Sheets:

The new system includes 16 sections trying to achieve a reliable presentation of protection data:

  • Identification
  • Hazard(s) identification
  • Composition / information on ingredients
  • First-aid measures
  • Fire-fighting measures
  • Accidental release measures
  • Handling and storage
  • Exposure controls/personal protection
  • Physical and chemical properties
  • Stability and reactivity
  • Toxicological information
  • Ecological information
  • Disposal considerations
  • Transport information
  • Regulatory information
  • Other information including last revision
  1. Information and training:

The new standard requires training of the employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet format, in addition to the current training demand. In other words workers must be informed about:

  • The standardized content of formatting of Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • The changes to the hazard categories of hazardous chemicals
  • The hazardous chemical label elements
  • The new pictograms, new and different signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements.

If you are an employer in the chemical production industry, take advantage of the New GHS Labeling System to ensure the safety and health protection of your employees.  And if you are a worker, learn how to be safe with the chemicals you work with. It is not an obligation, it is your right.