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Globally Harmonized System

03 February, 2023

The GHS is a standard used for how chemicals are labeled and classified across the globe. The main purpose is to simplify and increase international trade all while communicating hazardous materials in a safe manner.

Beginning 2015, only the GHS aligned HCS/HazCom 2012 standards can be used for substances and mixtures.



The following is a transcript of the Globally Harmonized System Infographic:

What is GHS?

Globally Harmonized System of classification and labeling of chemicals

It is a system for standardizing how chemicals are labeled and classified across the globe. GHS is a set of recommendations. Countries can decide which parts of GHS to comply with.

Why do we need GHS?

  • Simplify & Increase International Trade
  • Improve communication between countries by having a globally recognized system
  • Reduce worker confusion caused by different standards
  • Provide framework for countries without chemical safety systems
  • Reduce the costs associated with government enforcement and company compliance of multiple standards of different countries

GHS provides a standardized system to determine how hazardous chemicals can affect health and safety. This will improve understanding of hazards and will lead to safer handling and use of chemicals in the workplace.

What is the goal of GHS?


Who Benefits?

OSHA predicts the implementation of GHS in the U.S. will result in increased safety and health for employees and reduce the numbers of accidents, fatalities, injuries and illnesses from exposures to hazardous chemicals.

Over 5,000,000 workplaces in the United States have environments where employees could be exposed to hazardous chemicals. These workplaces employ approximately 43 million employees, which would all be affected by the GHS implementation.

What is the Cost?

The cost of GHS implementation is estimated at $201 million per year.

  • $95.4 million a year to train employees on the new warning symbols and the revised safety data sheet format under GHS.
  • $22.5 million a year to classify chemical hazards with the GHS criteria and revising safety data sheets and labels to follow the new format and include the correct content
  • $24.1 million for printing packaging & labels for hazardous chemicals
  • $59 million a year for management to become familiar with the new GHS system and to carry out management-related activities that are necessary for the industry's adoption of GHS

What is Saved?

$250 million per year saved due to a reduction in occupational risks

Plus $475.2 million saved from improvements in productivity.

585 injuries/illnesses result in the prevention of 43 fatalities.

*Injuries and money saved are OSHA estimates

How and Where does GHS work?

United States: During the 3 year transition period, the current practice (NFPA or Color Bar Labels) and/or the GHS aligned HCS/HazCom 2012 standard can be used. After the transition period on June 1, 2015, only the GHS aligned HCS/HazCom can be used for substances and mixtures. The one exception to this is distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system up to December 1, 2015.

European Union: GHS is adopted. It is known as the CLP (Classification, Labeling and Packaging) Regulation. Up until the deadline of May 31, 2015, both CLP and the previous system must be used for substances. Up until the deadline of May 31, 2015, CLP or the previous system can be used for mixtures. As of June 1, 2015, only CLP can be used for substances and mixtures.

Canada: Canada has not yet adopted GHS. However, since it is a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the U.S. and Mexico, it is expected to follow the U.S. in aligning existing standards with the GHS.

Mexico: Mexico has not yet fully adopted GHS, but in June 2011 Mexico published a national standard based on GHS and became the first NAFTA member to do this. However, the standard is not mandatory, as it is used on a voluntary basis and not enforced.

Japan, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, New Zealand: GHS is implemented and fully in effect.

Australia: GHS is adopted. During the transition period of January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2016, GHS or the previous system can be used. After the transition period, only GHS can be used.

Korea: GHS is implemented and fully in effect for substances. Up until the deadline of June 30, 2013, GHS or the previous system can be used for mixtures. After the deadline, only GHS can be used for mixtures.

South America, only Brazil and Uruguay have adopted GHS.

What does GHS change?

Safety Data Sheets

In the GHS, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are to be redesigned as Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Content Title: MSDS. New GHS Title: SDS

The GHS standardizes the content and formatting of SDSs into a strict 16 part document with a set order

  1. Identification
  2. Hazard(s) Communication
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
  4. First Aid Measures
  5. Fire-fighting Measures
  6. Accidental Release Measures
  7. Handling & Storage
  8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
  9. Physical & Chemical Properties
  10. Stability & Reactivity
  11. Toxicology Information
  12. Ecological Information
  13. Disposal Consideration
  14. Transportation Information
  15. Regulatory Information
  16. Other Information

Hazard Ratings

NFPA Hazard Ratings:

0 - Minimal Hazard

1 - Slight Hazard

2 - Moderate Hazard

3- Serious Hazard

4 - Severe hazard

Order Reverses

New GHS Hazard Categories:

1 - Severe Hazard

2 - Serious Hazard

3 - Moderate Hazard

4 - Slight Hazard

5 - Minimal Hazard

Categorization numbers in GHS are not used on the label. They are only present on the safety data sheet with additional information.

Label Elements

Differences in elements between current standard & new GHS Labels:

Current Standard: Only required to list the Identity of the hazardous chemical, Supplier Information and Appropriate hazard warning

NEW GHS Standard:

Product Identifier, Product Code (UN#, EC#, CAS#), Signal Word, Hazard Statement, Pictograms, Precautionary Statement, Supplier Information

Print your own GHS compliant signs & labels! Contact us to start your next labeling project