What is GHS and What Does it Mean to my Business?

by Amy Leung, CSP, ARM – Risk Control Advisor, Cavignac & Associates
GHS stands for Globally Harmonized Systemof Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. This is the new standard of classification that intends to enhance environmental protection, public health and safety and reduce possible miscommunication due to language barriers.

The system uses universal hazard statements, pictograms and signal words to communicate information on product labels and Safety Data Sheets (formally known as Material Safety Data Sheets) and has been developed and adopted by the United Nations and is currently being implemented and utilized throughout the rest of the world.

OSHA revised its Hazard Communication Standard to align with the new GHS nomenclature and requires compliance by the following dates:

  • December 1, 2013 – Employees must be trained on the GHS updates to the Hazard Communication Program (Product Identifier, Signal Word, Pictogram, Hazard Statements, Labeling, and Safety Data Sheets)
  • December 1, 2015 – Containers must have updated chemical labels for shipping
  • June 1, 2016 – Labeling and Hazard Communication Program must be updated

Although the first deadline has passed, it is critical that organizations comply with the new training requirements and program updates.  OSHA has begun to look for documentation of GHS training in their inspections and have already issued costly citations for non-compliance.

According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today. Revising OSHA’s communication standard will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive.

OSHA expects to see reduced numbers in accidents, fatalities and injuries due to workers being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Should you need assistance with training employees about GHS or need a review of your Hazard Communication Program, please contact our Risk Control Advisor, Amy Leung at (619) 744-0589 or aleung@cavignac.com.

Link to GHS and Hazard Communication Standard on OSHA’s website:  www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/index.html