What is Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for Hazard Communication (HazCom)?
The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is an international approach to hazard communication, providing agreed criteria for the classification of chemical hazards, and a standardized approach to label elements and safety data sheets. The GHS was negotiated in a multi-year process by hazard communication experts from many different countries, international organizations, and stakeholder groups. It is based on major existing systems around the world, including OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard and the chemical classification and labeling systems of other US agencies.
The result of this negotiation process is the United Nations’ document entitled “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals,” commonly referred to as The Purple Book. This document provides harmonized classification criteria for health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals. It also includes standardized label elements that are assigned to these hazard classes and categories, and provide the appropriate signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements to convey the hazards to users. A standardized order of information for safety data sheets is also provided.
What are the Major Changes to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in the USA?
OSHA revised it’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) and published it in the Federal Register in March 2012 (77 FR 17574). Two significant changes contained in the revised standard require the use of new labeling elements and a standardized format for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), formerly known as, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). The new label elements and SDS requirements will improve worker understanding of the hazards associated with the chemicals in their workplace.
In order to ensure chemical safety in the workplace, information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers.
- Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for the classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
- Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
- Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
- Information and training: Employers are required to train workers on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.
What pictograms are required in the revised Hazard Communication Standard?
A. There are nine pictograms under the GHS to convey the health, physical and environmental hazards. The final Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires eight of these pictograms, the exception being the environmental pictogram, as environmental hazards are not within OSHA’s jurisdiction. The hazard pictograms and their corresponding hazards are shown below.
HCS Pictograms and Hazards