Cornell Local Roads Program

The Globally Harmonized System and What It Means For You


Download Cornell University's Globally Harmonized System presentation (pdf)

Download Cornell University's Globally Harmonized System quiz (pdf)

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is the new chemical labelling and classification system supported by the United Nations and embraced by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The GHS has two important changes to the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) that will directly affect the operations and record keeping of most highway facilities:

The implementation of the GHS program is to begin in December 2013 and is to be fully implemented by June 1, 2016.


The GHS approach to labelling is to include six main elements :

  1. Product Identifier and Code
  2. Pictograms
  3. Signal Word
  4. Hazard Statement
  5. Precautionary Statements
  6. Supplier Identification

The Product Identifier and Code are used to indicate how the chemical is identified, which can be either by name, code number or batch number. The Identifiers are applied to a chemical by the manufacturer, importer or distributor.

Pictograms are black and white pictures placed in a diamond shape; the diamond shape must have a solid red outline and a white background. There are a total of 9 GHS pictograms; only 8 are applicable to the OSHA requirements. These pictures are to be placed on all containers that contain potentially hazardous materials.


GHS pictograms

Health Hazard

Health Hazard pictogram

  • Carcinogen
  • Reproductive Toxicity
  • Respiratory Sensitizer
  • Target Organ Toxicity
  • Aspiration Toxicity


Flame pictogram

  • Flamables
  • Pyrophorics
  • Self-Heating
  • Emits Flammable Gas
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxides

Exclamation Point

Exclamation Point pictogram

  • Irritant (Skin & Eyes)
  • Skin Sensitizer
  • Acute Toxicity (Harmful)
  • Narcotic Effects
  • Respiratory Tract Irritant
  • Hazardous
    to Ozone Layer*

Gas Cylinder

Gas Cylinder pictogram

  • Gases Under Pressure


Corrosion pictogram

  • Skin Corrosion/Burns
  • Eye Damage
  • Corrosive to Metals

Exploding Bomb

Exploding Bomb pictogram

  • Explosives
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxides

Flame Over Circle

Flame Over Circle pictogram

  • Oxidizers


Environment pictogram

  • Aquatic Toxicity

Skull and Crossbones

Skull and Crossbones pictogram

  • Accute
    Toxicity (Fatal or Toxic)

*Non-Mandatory for OSHA Compliance


Signal words are used to indicate a level of severity of the hazard. There are two Signal words that are to be utilized for this; Warning and Danger. Danger is used for severe hazards while Warning is used for less severe hazards.

A Hazard Statement is used to describe the nature of all of the hazards and the degree of the hazard of the chemical and how it will affect the human body. Hazard Statements are to be consistent and include all hazards associated with the product.

Precautionary Statements are phrases that provide recommendations to minimize or prevent effects resulting from exposure or improper storage.

Supplier information includes the name, address and contact number of the manufacturer, distributor or the importer

Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) replaces the familiar Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). The SDSs are provided by the manufacturer, distributor or the importer for each hazardous chemical to communicate information on the hazards. The format of the SDS is to be provided in a consistent 16 section format. The sections included are:

  1. Identification
  2. Hazard(s) Identification
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
  4. First Aid
  5. Fire-Fighting Measures
  6. Accidental Release Measures
  7. Handling and Storage
  8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties
  10. Stability and Reactivity
  11. Toxicological Information
  12. Ecological Information*
  13. Disposal Considerations*
  14. Transport Information*
  15. Regulatory Information*
  16. Other Information

Sections 1 through 8 provide general information about the chemical, identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices and emergency control measures. Sections 9 through 11 and section 16 provide additional technical and scientific information. Sections 12 through 15 are also included to be consistent with the UN’s GHS; however, they are not enforced by OSHA since the information covered is addressed by other agencies i.e. New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL)

What Does It Mean?

For municipal facilities these changes will require a replacement of all of the MSDS with new SDS sheets for all hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, all employees are required to complete an initial training on understanding the new labeling and the SDSs. This training was to be completed by December 1, 2013 and included in the employee’s training documentation.

Employers are still required to maintain the SDSs in a readily accessible location that can be obtained immediately without leaving the work area. They can be stored in either a notebook binder or electronically on computers. However, if the information is to be kept on a computer, the information must also be easily available in case of a power outage or an emergency.

Important GHS Dates:

December 1, 2013
All employees must be trained to the new standard, labels and SDS format

June 1, 2015
Complete Compliance with the new HazCom Regulations

December 1, 2015
Manufacturers must have new GHS labels on containers

June 1, 2016
HazCom updated and implemented and necessary training completed


Below that allows each employee the opportunity to participate in the required training and obtain documentation to verify compliance. The training consists of a “YouTube ®” training video and quiz developed and maintained by the Environmental & Health Services department of Cornell University.

For access to this training go to:


Spring 2014

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This work by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.