The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals is an international standard for identifying hazards. Using common pictograms, signal words, and hazard statements; governments and companies are anticipating GHS will increase the well being of human health and the environment while reducing unnecessary testing and regulatory development for countries without systems. In the long run GHS should also help economically speaking due to easier international trade of hazardous chemicals and lower health care costs for governments, companies, and individuals.
The graphic below is an example of a GHS label using the three hazard identifiers. The flame and skull inside of the red diamond is the pictogram. The word, “Danger!,” Is the signal word, and the hazard statement is, “Toxic If Swallowed, Flammable Liquid and Vapor.”
GHS was originally adopted by the UN in 2003 and is just now starting to be implemented as a required standard internationally. The United States has ruled that all employees be trained on SDS formats and label elements by December 1, 2013. Manufactures must be GHS compliant by June 1, 2015. What does this mean for you?
- If your company produces, distributes, or uses hazardous chemicals be sure all of the employees are trained on how to interpret the various pictograms, signal words, and hazard statements by December 1st.
- Be cognizant of inventory levels for your labels to avoid obsolescence.
Understand what revisions need to be made to the SDS and labels.
- For existing parts it is important to know if the product will still be relevant by June 1, 2015. If it will NOT be around there is no need to incur change costs.
- For new products it is advantageous to be compliant up front to avoid change costs.
- International companies can refer to the following website as a resource to other countries compliance agendas: http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/implementation_e.html
Many companies have already begun implementing GHS into new and current products to proactively avoid hiccups that could consequentially cost big money once compliance is mandatory come June 1, 2015. If you are a chemical manufacturer it is important to develop a complete understanding of what implementing GHS into your products entails. Below are a few web resources to help: