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May 22, 2018

(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About GHS




Developed by the United Nations, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is designed to standardize the process of defining and classifying the hazards of chemical products while providing a universal system for communicating health and safety information via GHS labels and safety data sheets (SDSs).

Criteria of the GHS are outlined in the UN GHS Purple Book, which is updated every two years. The 6th Revised edition of the UN GHS Purple Book was published in 2015.


Being that the GHS serves more as a voluntary guideline than a law, countries that wish to adopt the system are responsible for establishing their own regulations while implementing the GHS criteria.


Two examples of GHS supported regulations include OSHA’s Hazard Communications Standard (HCS) 2012 in the United States, and the European Union’s CLP Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on the Classification, Labelling, and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures.

The Benefits of a Globally Harmonized System

Prior to the UN GHS, countries were responsible for developing and maintaining their own system for communicating health and safety risks associated with hazardous materials. While the majority of these systems were adequate for the individual country, confusion over the different label warnings grew between nations which negatively impacted worker safety, environmental health, and business performance.


In light of these consequences, the benefits of the GHS are expected to:


  • Improve the protection of human health and the environment by providing a an internationally comprehensible system for hazard communication
  • Provide countries that don’t have an existing system access to an established framework
  • Streamline the process of testing and evaluating the harmful effects of chemicals
  • Facilitate international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been properly assessed and identified on an international basis

Industry Sectors Effected by GHS

   Industry Sector:    GHS Element to be Adopted

   Transport Industry Sector expected to  adopt:

           -  GHS hazard classification criteria
           -  GHS hazard pictogram




   Workplace Industry Sector expected to adopt:

           -  GHS hazard classification criteria
           -  GHS label elements
           -  GHS safety data sheet

   Consumer Industry Sector expected to adopt:

           -  GHS hazard classification criteria
           -  GHS label elements


GHS Hazard Classes, Hazard Categories and Pictograms

In GHS, the nature and severity of a chemical is identified by the Hazard Class and Hazard Category. This information is paired with corresponding a pictogram(s) that provides a visual cue for the different types of hazards. Below is a brief explanation of each element:


  • The Hazard class is the nature of a chemical hazard, i.e., flammable liquids, carcinogen.
  • The Hazard category is the division of criteria within each hazard class. For example, Acute Toxicity has 4 categories among which Acute Toxicity category 1 represents the most severe hazard.
  • Hazard pictogram: There are 9 pictograms responsible for communicating different types of health, physical and environmental hazards

According to the most recent UN GHS Purple Book, there are 29 hazard classes which are outlined below:


GHS Hazard Class and Hazard Category

GHS Building Blocks

As a set of recommendations, it should be noted that the UN GHS employs a building blocks strategy with the hopes that more countries will opt-in and help build a fully harmonized system over time. Through this approach, participating countries may choose different parts of GHS that they wish to incorporate into their regulations.


While somewhat flexible, the system does require that countries commit to consistently using the building blocks they choose.


Both Hazard Classes and Hazard Categories are considered building block elements which means that individual countries or regions, like the European Union, are free to determine which classes or categories they’d like to implement.

GHS Pictograms

GHS Pictograms are visual cues that communicate a chemical’s hazards. The pictograms used for GHS packaging labels are designed using two distinctive elements; a red diamond and a black image. The space between these two elements should be white.


When chemicals are shipped in boxes or other larger containers, these 9 pictograms should be placed on the inner packaging inside the boxes.


GHS Pictograms Enviance


GHS Classification

The GHS classification process is used to determine the hazard class and hazard category of a chemical substance or mixture which were both explained earlier in this post.


Under GHS, all chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors are required to update the hazards associated with their products using the GHS Classification process.


To demonstrate this process, we’ve put together the following example using the GHS classification criteria for flammable liquids. Under GHS guidelines, a liquid with a flashpoint between 23 and 60 Celsius will be classified as a flammable liquid category 3. However, a liquid with a flash point above 93 Celsius degrees will not be regarded as a hazardous chemical because it fails to meet the GHS classification criteria.




1 Flash point < 23 °C and initial boiling point ≤ 35°C
2 Flash point < 23 °C and initial boiling point > 35°C
3 Flash point ≥ 23 °C and ≤ 60 °C
4 Flash point > 60 °C and ≤ 93 °C


As a guide, you can download the UN GHS Classification criteria below:

- See more at: http://www.chemsafetypro.com/UN_GHS_Chemicals_GHS_for_Dummies.html#sthash.zxygWbhU.dpuf

GHS Classification Determines Labeling Elements

After using the GHS classification criteria to classify your chemical, manufacturers, importers, and distributors will be able to assign a signal word, pictogram(s), hazard statements and precautionary statements that are required for GHS labels and safety data sheets (SDSs).

Download Signal Words, Pictograms & GHS Pharases


For example, a liquid with a flash point between

For example, a liquid with a flash point between 60 and 93 Celsius degrees will be classified as flammable liquid category 4. As you'll see by checking the Flammable Liquids - Chapter 2.6 (Page 50 from the download link above), the core labeling elements for this liquid are:

Signal Word: Warning
Pictogram: No Symbol
Hazard Statement: H227 Combustible Liquid
Precautionary Statement: P210, P280, P370 + P378, P403, P501

GHS Label Requirements

The six required elements of a GHS label include:

  1. Product identifier: Chemical identities of a substance or hazardous ingredients in a mixture
  2. Supplier identification: The name, address and telephone number of a supplier
  3. Signal word: Danger or Warning
  4. Hazard pictogram: conveying different types of chemical hazards
  5. Hazard statements: standardized and assigned phrases that describe the hazard(s) as determined by hazard classification
  6. Precautionary statements: standardized phrases that describe measures to minimize or prevent adverse effects

An example of a GHS label for a chemical can be found below:


GHS Label Enviance

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Once referred to as a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), today’s GHS Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are designed to communicate key information about a chemical mixture or substance through a standardized 16 section format.

These sections, which are listed below, include information on safe handling, storage and first aid procedures an individual should take in the event of accidental exposure:


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

GHS Compliance

Enviance’s GHS Solutions module, SDS Vault, is an industry leading, web-based safety data sheet (SDS) management system that enables companies to meet their international, federal, state and local regulatory compliance requirements while keeping workers safe.


Leveraging Enviance’s proprietary IntelligentTEXTTM technology, SDS Vault’s robust relational database makes it possible for users to unlock all of the information embedded in a GHS SDS document.


With infinite search capabilities, SDS Vault users are able to conduct sophisticated analysis across all levels of the enterprise, produce secondary container labels and compile summary sheets quickly and easily.



SDS Management Software




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