Let’s Take a Closer Look at the GHS Label
The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of the classification and warnings on labels for chemicals is an international standard designed to ensure that the dangers of handling hazardous chemicals are understood by all participants in their manufacture, transportation, usage, and disposal.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the GHS labeling system is “a logical and comprehensive approach” to:
- Defining the health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals
- Creating classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria
- Communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on GHS label and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
The Globally Harmonized System: Warnings Include Six Standardized Elements
The GHS label warns workers that a chemical container (such as a steel drum) contains a specific chemical that may be hazardous under certain circumstances.
The six elements on these warning labels, as detailed by the Environmental Protection Agency, are:
- Product identifiers: Names or numbers used on a hazardous product label or in a safety data sheet.
- Signal word: One word used to indicate the relative severity of the hazard: “Warning” for less severe hazards; and “Danger” for more severe hazard categories.
- GHS Pictogram(s): A symbol inside a diamond with a red border, denoting a particular hazard class.
- Hazard statement(s): Phrase assigned to each hazard category that describes the nature of the hazard.
- Precautionary statement(s): Phrases that describe recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects.
- Supplier identification: The name, address, and telephone number of the manufacturer or supplier.
GHS Label Importance
In the United States, the chemical industry generates $450 billion per year, with $80 billion of that coming from exports. OSHA anticipates the GHS standard could prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries annually, with a net savings of over $500 million a year, according to MSDSonline, an industry resource.