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Cashins & Associates Blog

GHS: Is Your Company Ready?

Posted by Eileen Watkins on Thu, Oct, 17, 2013 @ 10:10 AM


What is GHS and does it apply to my facility?

GHS, the Globally Harmonized System, can be thought of as an international hazard communication program.  It standardizes the way in which chemical hazards are classified, labeled, and documented across the globe.  Countries who have adopted the GHS –approximately 65 so far - use the same hazard classification criteria, warning labels, and Safety Data Sheet format.

The GHS benefits all of us as it ensures that everyone follows the same guidelines when evaluating chemicals for hazardous properties and then consistently labels those chemicals. Chemical workers will have an improved understanding of the hazards, and this in turn will help to improve safe handling of chemicals in the workplace.

OSHA incorporated the GHS into its Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) and Laboratory Standard (29 CFR1910.1450).  In other words, the GHS is now a legal requirement in the United States per OSHA.  All US companies who use, import, distribute, or manufacture hazardous chemicals have GHS obligations under the revised Hazard Communication and Laboratory Standards. 

What are the new OSHA/GHS requirements?

OSHA/GHS requires that all chemical manufacturers use the same hazard classification criteria
when they evaluate chemicals for their hazardous properties.  This means that every country and company participating in the GHS will use the same definitions of corrosivity, flammability,
carcinogenicity, etc.  The GHS also has an environmental hazard category for chemicals which pose a hazard to aquatic life. 

The GHS has also standardized hazardous chemical labels.  They must contain a symbol
(otherwise known as a hazard pictogram), signal words such as “danger” or “warning”, and short hazard statements. 

The GHS Pictograms

Finally, the GHS has introduced some changes to Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs).  They have been renamed Safety Data Sheets, or SDSs. All GHS-compliant SDSs must follow the same outline and must address 16 different safety topics, which are listed below.  Emergency responders, health and safety professionals, and others who use SDSs will find it easier to find key information now that the same outline will be used.

  • Section 1. Identification
  • Section 2. Hazard(s) identification
  • Section 3. Composition/information on ingredients
  • Section 4. First-Aid measures
  • Section 5. Fire-fighting measures
  • Section 6. Accidental release measures
  • Section 7. Handling and storage
  • Section 8. Exposure controls/personal protection
  • Section 9. Physical and chemical properties
  • Section 10. Stability and reactivity
  • Section 11. Toxicological information
  • Section 12. Ecological information
  • Section 13. Disposal considerations
  • Section 14. Transport information
  • Section 15. Regulatory information
  • Section 16. Other information, including preparation date & revision(s)

My facility doesn’t manufacture chemicals – do I have GHS requirements?

Yes.  All companies with workers that handle hazardous chemicals must train their
employees on the new hazard labels and the new SDS formats no later than December 1st of this year. Some chemical manufacturers are already using the new hazard labels and SDSs, and all chemical workers need to understand them.

Additional requirements are being phased in and are listed below.

June 1, 2015:  All aspects of the modified OSHA Hazard Communication/GHS Standard must be complied with except for the labeling requirement.

December 1, 2015:  Chemical manufacturers and distributors must comply with the labeling requirement.

June 1, 2016:  All companies must update their internal workplace chemical labeling and hazard communication programs, as necessary.  In addition, provide training for any newly identified chemical hazards due to the new hazard classification system.

Do I need to change the hazard labels that I use in my workplace? 

No, you can keep using the hazard labels that you’ve been using on chemical tanks, vessels,
containers, etc. that stay in your workplace as long as they meet the OSHA labeling requirements – and as long as your internal labeling system doesn’t conflict with the GHS labels.  Be aware that in these cases your employees are required to understand both your internal labeling system and the GHS labels. 

How do I get started?

Make sure that you provide GHS training to your employees by the December 1st
deadline.  Cashins & Associates can provide this training, and can work with you to evaluate your Hazard Communication program to make sure it complies with all the OSHA requirements.  Cashins can also help you update your label system and manage your hazardous chemical inventory and SDS files.  Click on the icon below to contact us for a free estimate.

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Topics: GHS, Hazard Communication

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