What does GHS stand for?

In manufacturing and other industries, the acronym GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System. It is also often called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals because it is a set of standards used when labeling systems. This system was developed by people and companies from many different nations and authorities in order to help make a single standard that can be understood throughout the world.

GHS drum

Used Widely by Regulatory Agencies

While GHS itself was not developed by any single government agency, it has been adopted by many throughout the world. OSHA in the United States, for example, requires the use of GHS labeling for hazardous chemicals. This is because OSHA (and many other agencies) recognize the benefit of following the globally harmonized system rather than coming up with their own unique set of standards.

Industrial chemicals are used and shipped around the world, which is one of the reasons that the GHS is so critical. Without this one set of standards to follow, these types of products would have to be relabeled whenever entering or leaving a country. The other option would be to have a different label for each country that it will be going to, which would be inefficient and confusing.

Creating GHS Labels & Signs

Any facility that uses dangerous chemicals should be using GHS labeling and signs to alert people to the potential hazards. In many cases, using these types of labels will be required by OSHA, but even when that is not the case, it is a very smart thing to consider. These labels can be placed directly on the container holding the chemicals, on the shipping container, or on the truck that is transporting the chemicals.

Depending on the environment where they are needed, you can either buy pre-made GHS labels and signs, or print them off yourself as you need them. Many facilities will use an industrial label maker to create the specific GHS compliant labels that are required for their company.

Additional GHS facts:

  • GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. It is a set of guidelines for ensuring the safe production, transport, handling, use and disposal of hazardous materials. The GHS was developed by the United Nations (UN) to unify and standardize chemical hazard classification, labeling, and communication worldwide. Source: https://www.hseblog.com/ghs/
  • The GHS includes criteria for the classification of health, physical and environmental hazards, as well as specifying what information should be included on labels of hazardous chemicals as well as safety data sheets. The GHS also provides a standardized system of pictograms and signal words to convey the nature and severity of the hazards. Source: https://www.osha.gov/hazcom/global
  • The GHS is not a binding treaty, but rather a voluntary agreement that countries can adopt and implement according to their own regulatory processes. The GHS is intended to be a living document that is updated and revised periodically to reflect new scientific data and changing needs. Source: https://chemicalsafety.com/globally-harmonized-system-ghs/
  • The GHS has been adopted or is in the process of being adopted by many countries and regions, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, China, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. The implementation of the GHS is expected to facilitate international trade, enhance protection of human health and the environment, and reduce costs and burdens for businesses and consumers. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globally_Harmonized_System_of_Classification_and_Labelling_of_Chemicals
  • The GHS covers all hazardous chemicals and may be adopted to cover chemicals in the workplace, transport, consumer products, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. The GHS is also relevant for other sectors that deal with chemicals, such as emergency responders, poison centers, environmental and waste management authorities, and non-governmental organizations. Source: https://www.ehs.com/ghs-resource-center/ghs-facts/

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