Global Harmonized System, GHS, refers to the labeling regulations that were created by the United Nations to be used in labeling and classification of hazardous material. The objective of GHS is to create one universal labeling format across the world to reduce the confusion that arises when individual countries are left to come up with their own labeling and classification standards. Without GHS labels, international manufacturers do not have standard labels to communicate if a material is hazardous or not.
GHS regulations are to be observed by manufacturing companies, packaging firms, and transporters. In Canada, the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS) controls how hazardous materials are classified and labeled. Not all GHS regulations on hazardous materials are mandatory. However, the GHS regulations adopted by the Canadian legislation can be legally enforced.
Major Hazard Groups
GHS classification has three major hazard groups namely; environmental hazards, health hazards, and physical hazards. Each one of the three hazard groups contains different categories and classes referred to as building blocks. A country gets to decide which GHS building blocks to apply in in the workplace, after which, all the necessary GHS regulations must be applied correctly.
Functions of the GHS
There are two primary functions of the GHS. One of these functions is to provide guidance on the classification of mixtures or pure chemicals according to the rules or criteria. The other function is to use safety data sheets and safety labels to communicate precautionary information of the said hazardous materials.
These labels and safety data sheets communicate hazardous information. A standard GHS label will include a GHS pictogram, signal word, precautionary statement, hazard statement, category, class, hazard group, and the safety data sheet.
Pictogram: GHS pictograms refer to the symbols on the safety data sheet or the label. They help to identify the health, chemical, and environmental risks. Not all classes of hazardous products have a pictogram on their label.
Signal word: the two signal words adopted by the GHS are “Warning” or “Danger.” These words will tell you the level of risk posed by the hazardous material. The classification system will determine the signal word.
Precautionary Statement: Exposure to hazardous material resulting from incorrect handling of the material can have adverse effects on an individual. The precautionary statement spells out the steps to be taken in the event of exposure in the workplace or any other environment.
Hazard Statement: Same as the precautionary statement but describes the hazard itself and its accompanying risk level. For instance, a flammable substance may come with a hazard statement stating that it may catch fire if exposed to a flame.
GHS labels must be permanent. Companies that specialize in the manufacture of labelling products must stick to materials that are resistant to weather, UV light, abrasion, and chemicals while making these products. If you are interested in learning more, visit ICC Compliance Center.