How to Use GHS Labels

Standing for Globally Harmonized System, the GHS is used to classify chemicals in the workplace to clear the hazards to all those who come into contact with them. By creating a standardized system, countries from all over the world are using the same approach and aligning with global safety standards.

Making it suitable for all countries, the GHS standard overcomes industrial barriers by using the same information and design layouts consistently; quickly communicating the essential information. For both employees who handle the chemicals regularly to emergency workers who need to quickly understand the hazards involved, the GHS portrays the vital information through a combination of symbols and clear wording.

Why Use GHS Labelling?

For organizations that handle chemical products, GHS labels are a requirement that must be adhered to comply with industrial standards. Of course, every employee handling dangerous chemicals should be aware of the hazards associated with their job role, but there are more benefits than those that initially meets the eye.

By maintaining correctly labeled products throughout a workplace, business owners are avoiding not only the dangerous risks but the hefty costs associated with mislabelling their chemicals. If an inspection was to identify no labeling on hazardous products or incorrectly labeled hazardous products, serious legal issues could be faced.

For organizations that sell chemical products, GHS labeling is even more paramount. Buyers should be 100% aware of exactly what they are buying so they are familiar with the hazards involved, correct usage information, and any storing requirements.

The 6 Elements of a GHS Label

1. Product ID

Of course, the contents of a container must be written clearly when stored in a workplace. The identifier should state the name of the chemical or product as well as the supplier information, allowing it to be formally identified by its technical name as well as any more commonly known name it goes by. In the event of a mixed product, all substances included must be stated, especially if it adds to the toxicity level and can cause harm when used.

2. Signal Word

Being the most prominent aspect of a GHS label, a signal word should be immediately recognizable. To align with the GHS, one of two signal words should be used as this shows exactly how hazardous the chemical is so the appropriate level of caution can be taken. The word ‘Warning’ is used when a substance is a relatively low threat, whereas ‘Danger’ shows that a product holds a more serious threat level. If unsure what level of threat a chemical poses, sufficient research should be undertaken to ensure that the labeling used accurately follows guidelines and portrays the correct signal word.

3. Symbol

A symbol is used to instantly show the level of risk entailed, avoiding any potential language barriers or time restraints. The GHS uses nine standardized symbols that group the chemicals accordingly by detailing physical, chemical, environmental, and health risks. Each symbol is printed within a red diamond on a white background, making it visible so it does not go amiss. The nine symbols are as follows:

  1. Health: Includes respiration, organ toxicity, and mutagenicity threats.
  2. Flame: Highly flammable products including self-heating chemicals or those which emit flammable gas.
  3. Exclamation marks: Can cause irritation Tod the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.
  4. Gas cylinder: Container contains pressurized gas.
  5. Corrosion: Can cause harm to the skin or eyes or corrode metals.
  6. Bomb: Contains explosives or is self-reactive.
  7. Circle with flame: Contains oxidizers.
  8. Environment: Can cause harm to surround wildlife and nature.
  9. Skull: Contains toxic substances that have the potential to result in death.

4. Hazard Statement

The GHS states several phrases that must be listed if appropriate. The written statements detail the risk and the level of severity involved, again, using standardized statements which are consistent across different nations. In many cases, more than one hazard statement will need to be printed on a label and these must be written in full.

5. Precautionary Statement

Similar to hazard statements, a precautionary statement details the steps that can be taken to prevent risk when using a certain chemical. A list of the official statements is available and these should be printed on labels to explain what action needs to be taken at the risk of danger. From preventive measures and storage information to disposal instructions and what to do in response to an incident, the information must be immediately accessible when handling chemical products.

6. Supplier Information

As well as information about the chemical itself, the information of the supplier should be present. The manufacturer and supplier should be stated alongside an address and contact number so they can be traced if necessary. Whether the supplier needs to be contacted to answer any queries about the product or is needed in the event of an emergency, having immediate access to contact details is a necessity.


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