GHS – An Introduction

OSHA’s has updated its HazCom standard (29CFR §1910.1200). They are now incorporating the United Nations GHS for classification and labeling hazardous chemicals. The ultimate goal of the GHS is to simplify the recognition and characterization of hazardous substances and to harmonize each participating country; which eliminates confusion over the potential hazards a substance possess.

The GHS is an acronym for The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The GHS is a system for standardizing and harmonizing the classification and labeling of chemicals. It is a logical and comprehensive approach to:

  • Defining health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals;
  • Creating classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria; and
  • Communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS)


The GHS includes the following elements:

  • Harmonized criteria for classifying substances and mixtures according to there health, environmental and physical hazards.
  • Harmonized hazard communication elements, including requirements for labelling and safety data sheets.

GHS is based on the mandate from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) for development of such a system as stated in paragraphs 26 and 27 of the Agenda 21, Chapter 19, Programme Area B.

26. Globally harmonized hazard classification and labeling systems are not yet available to promote the safe use of chemicals, inter alia, at the workplace or in the home. Classification of chemicals can be made for different purposes and is a particularly important tool in establishing labeling systems. There is a need to develop harmonized hazard classification and labeling systems, building on ongoing work.”

“27. A globally harmonized hazard classification and compatible labeling system, including material safety data sheets and easily understandable symbols, should be available, if feasible, by the year 2000.”

From UNECE section 1.1.2

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.