According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis “Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today.” The existing Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS was developed by hazard communication experts from all over the world in order to determine and classify the hazards of chemical products according to its criteria or rules, and communicate health and safety information using labels and material safety data sheets (called Safety Data Sheets– SDSs).
The need for the establishment of this new system emerged from the existence of several different systems for classification and labeling of chemical products not only in different countries, but even within the same country. This situation had resulted in expensive regulation and enforcement measures for governments, costly compliances with many different systems for companies, and confusion for workers, who had to understand the hazards of a chemical in order to work safely. Putting into effect the GHS rules will advance better emergency response to chemical incidents during working hours creating a safer working environment.
GHS’s primary goal is to enhance protection of human health and environmental awareness. There are more than 5 million workplaces in the US alone where employees can be exposed to dangerous chemicals. Therefore the implementation of this new system will benefit businesses and the environment, as well. According to OSHA the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace will improve. Information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals will be more understandable to workers resulting in less confusion caused by different standards. Finally, that will lead to better and safer working conditions and productivity improvement.
American businesses that regularly handle, store, and use hazardous chemicals will have the opportunity to promote regulatory efficiency and ease compliance of multiple standards of different countries. That will reduce the costs associated with government enforcement and company compliance.
This update will also help provide cost savings for businesses that have to periodically bring up to date their safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered under the hazard communication standard.
Furthermore GHS promises to facilitate and increase global trade by reducing trade barriers between countries. Adopting an internationally recognized system will encourage the safe transport, handling and use of chemicals and improve transnational communication.