The Globally Harmonized System and What It Means For You
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:
- Requiring the use of new labelling on all chemical containers, and
- Standardized format for Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
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 :
- Product Identifier and Code
- Signal Word
- Hazard Statement
- Precautionary Statements
- 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.
Flame Over Circle
Skull and Crossbones
*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:
- Hazard(s) Identification
- Composition/Information on Ingredients
- First Aid
- Fire-Fighting Measures
- Accidental Release Measures
- Handling and Storage
- Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
- Physical and Chemical Properties
- Stability and Reactivity
- Toxicological Information
- Ecological Information*
- Disposal Considerations*
- Transport Information*
- Regulatory Information*
- 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:
- Cornell University's Globally Harmonized System presentation (pdf)
- Cornell University's Globally Harmonized System quiz (pdf) - Note this quiz is no longer interactive.
- GHS Updates for Cornell Labs video