GHS: An Overview

Globally Harmonized System

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is the new system that is being implemented worldwide for naming chemical hazards. In Australia, GHS has taken effect nationwide on January 1, 2012 and it will be used until December 31, 2016. Technically, suppliers and manufacturers are given a transition period of approximately five years. 

Basically, the implementation of this new system means significant changes to chemical traders, manufacturers, and suppliers globally. However, the Department of Education, comprised by the students, teachers, and staff, is also encouraged to familiarize the labeling, naming, and classification of chemical hazards under Globally Harmonized System. And since school schools are not chemical suppliers, teachers are not required to change the hazard labels of chemicals used in classroom experiments and demonstrations.  

Australian government has also adopted the system as part of Work Health and Safety Act 2011 where naming, labeling, and classification of standard chemical risks are further classified. At the very least, the government expects that the Department of Education Training and Employment will follow the necessary changes in accordance with WHS Regulations 2011. 

Its over-all purpose 

GHS is primarily created to enhance environmental protection and reduce health hazards caused by inappropriate chemical hazards labeling and classification. This is done through standard safety data sheet which includes uniform hazard communication and classification that makes international chemical trading safer and easier to recognize. 

Although the information about the innate hazards found in all chemical substances, mixtures, and formulations as specified in Global Harmonized System are spread throughout the world, it is not intended to influence danger assessment procedures nor control risk management implementations. 

Label appearance 

The information label in GHS has front and back panels, and each panel has specific contents that have to be included.

The Front panel includes information such as product identifier, quantity allocation of each ingredient, Manufacturer details, hazard pictograms, along with signal word for its greatest risk. Meanwhile, the back cover details the precautionary response statements, precautions, preventions and precautionary stage and disposal of the product.

The main communication tool within the GHS is the hazard pictograms which appear as a black image with white background enclosed in a red diamond symbol. The hazard classifications in the pictogram are grouped so they can easily be detected; they are different from the usual Dangerous Goods diamonds. 

GHS is commonly mistaken with DG. But one big difference between the two is in their hazard identification—Dangerous Goods diamonds put this in outer packaging for safety during transportation, while GHS does not. As you go over the details of Global Harmonized System, expect that some of its hazard classifications and categories cannot be found in ADG Code of Practice.

However, chemical manufacturers and suppliers are not obliged to immediately change all labels of their stocked products. The transition period is given to have time for disposal of stocks and familiarization of the new labeling system. To start with the transition, they can indicate new pictograms along with the old ones. In summary, expect that the forthcoming chemical supplies will be labeled and named uniformly because Suppliers are bound to abide with the rules stated in United Nation’s GHS when it comes to proper hazard identification.