The Global Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, also known as GHS, is a method used globally to classify chemicals and prepare labels and safety data sheets.

It offers practical, consistent, and easy to understand information in regards to chemical hazards. Also, GHS helps in steps taken to protect health and safety.

Created by the United Nations, the classifications are written on labels and the safety data sheets that include safe storage method, usage, and disposal of chemicals.

The method has been adopted by over 50 countries, with New Zealand having the major trading partners.


Understanding GHS Hazard Classifications

There are two parts to understanding a hazard classification, namely:

  1. Hazard Category refers to the severity within a hazard class, meaning the lower the category number, the more chances of the hazard being high.
  2. Hazard Class is the nature the hazard substance poses. These can either be grouped into health, environmental or physical hazards.

Some of the physical hazards include explosives, Aerosols, Flammable liquids and solids, oxidizing gases, and much more.

Health hazard examples are acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, aspiration hazards, reproductive toxicity, and more.

When it comes to environmental hazards, it is good to be aware of anything hazardous to the aquatic or terrestrial environment.


New Zealand and how they are embracing GHS.

The New Zealand Food and Grocery Council or NZFGC have been put in place to represent significant manufacturers and suppliers of any food, beverage, and grocery products in the country. The food sector alone generates more than $40 billion in the country’s domestic retail of food, beverage, and grocery products in the market.

GHS 7 has allowed regulators in New Zealand some flexibility after adapting to some hazard classifications and cut-offs of concentration. Some of them are in the list below.

  1. They are not adapting to skin irritation Category 3. It is the equivalent of HSNO 6.3B.
  2. Not accepting aspiration hazard Category 2
  3. Not yet adopted hazardous to the aquatic environment acute in Categories 2 and 3
  4. No adoption hazardous to the ozone layer
  5. Only lower concentration cut-offs were adopted where GHS 7 has provided optional cut- off values for the classification of mixtures.


Another additional hazard class to GHS 7 is substances that are hazardous to the terrestrial environment. 

The hazard class has four classifications that effectively adhere to HSNO classifications such as:

  1. Anything hazardous to soil organism which replaces HSNO 9.2A-D
  2. Hazardous to any terrestrial vertebrates which replace HSNO 9.3A-C
  3. Anything that may be hazardous to terrestrial invertebrates replaces HSNO 9.4A-C
  4. Products designed for biocidal action that replaces HSNO 9.1D biocide


Role of Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets provide comprehensive information about a mixture and how it is to be used. It is an essential component of GHS.

SDS is a source of information about hazards that include environmental hazards to obtain advice about safety precautions. It is product related aiming to develop protection measures and training that are specific to a workplace.