Although most developed countries around the world have already adopted self-regulatory systems for classifying and labeling flammable and hazardous materials, a universal system is required for maximum safety. Like the United States' MSDS program, many of these systems are similar to other country’s programs, but the inherent cultural and linguistic differences are often great enough to warrant multiple documentations (safety data sheets, labels, etc.) when these products need to be transported internationally. This can, at best, lead to confusion and, at worst, cause tragedy.
This international inconsistency has prompted the United Nations to issue its GHS document to help give all countries a consistent and an easily understood (in all languages) standard for universal chemical labeling and classification.
Originally issued by the United Nations at its UN Rio Conference in 1992, the Globally-Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (also known as the “purple book”), is a standard that would was hoped to have been adopted and integrated by all participating countries by the year 2000. Though not sanctioned or prosecutable by any international laws, this standard has a backing by the EU and the United States.(continued on Page 2)