GHS Labels: An Overview

GHS chemical labels

The Globally Harmonized System is a universally agreed upon standard for the classification and labeling of chemicals. It has been fully adopted by OSHA, making it the agency’s Hazard Communication Standard since 2015. When the United Nations developed GHS, they developed a labeling system that had consistent elements and a defined format.

There are many GHS labeling requirements that facilities need to be aware of. The specific requirements can vary from industry to industry and chemical to chemical, so make sure you are able to reference this type of information directly.

The following are some specific requirements for chemical manufacturers as well as chemical importers. These requirements need to be met when labeling chemical containers:

Harmonized Signal Word – Signal words are things like “DANGER” or “WARNING” that can help provide information about the level of the hazard at just a glance. GHS requires only one signal word to be used at a time, and it should be noted that not every chemical will warrant a signal word.

GHS labeled container

GHS Pictogram – A pictogram is a small, simple image that conveys a specific message. For example, an image of a flame will mean that the chemical is flammable. There are nine recognized GHS hazard pictograms and OSHA enforces the use of eight of them.

(The optional pictogram is known as the environmental hazard pictogram)

Hazard Statement – You must include a hazard statement, which briefly describes the hazards associated with the chemical contained within the container. Hazard statements typically include a designated code that corresponds with a specific physical, health, or environmental hazard.

Precautionary Statement – This is a statement that describes what precautions you need to take when working with this chemical. These statements typically include some type of instructions for safe handling and storage, as well as steps to limit exposure. It may say that eye protection is required, for example, or that it must be kept out of direct sunlight.

The easiest way to know if your GHS label is compliant is to check it against the Safety Data Sheets. Previously called Material Safety Data Sheets, an SDS is a document that provides a comprehensive overview to the chemical. It is broken down into 16 sections and includes all of the information you will need to create a GHS label.

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