Misconceptions on Global Harmonized System

hazard classification

The <a href= "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globally_Harmonized_System_of_Classification_and_Labelling_of_Chemicals">Globally Harmonized System</a> is applied worldwide as the only chemical labeling standard implemented by the United Nations. So far, not all chemical manufacturing industries have adopted this new system since it has just been implemented. But suppliers are expected to follow the labeling system of GHS after its five-year transition period. However, despite the widely spread information about GHS, there are still various misconceptions and interpretations on its proper application.

Is there an exception in the application of GHS?

Technically, Globally Harmonized System is bound to be followed by all chemical suppliers worldwide. But there is an exception on its application. Suppliers are still allowed to use decreased labeling in hazardous chemicals, provided that they are used as samples for chemical research analysis, decanted, wastes, classified appropriately under explosive hazards, and individuals using the chemicals are aware of its hazards.

Guidelines in reduced labeling can be found in Labeling of Workplace hazardous Chemicals Code of practice 2011. Whether GHS standard or reduced labeling is applied, the bottom line is, manufacturers should provide enough information on its label about its proper usage and chemical hazards.

Do GHS and DG symbols mean the same?

Dangerous Goods system and Globally Harmonized System have entirely different symbols. However, their differences do not imply that the substance or chemical hazards are reduced—it only modified the classification and labeling. So, comparison of symbols of DG and GHS should be avoided as it may result to further misunderstanding and misconception.  However, it is understandable that many are still confusing one from the other. 

Did GHS replace DG?

Globally Harmonized System has not totally replaced Dangerous Goods system. Both have different set of requirements for labeling hazardous chemicals and the requirements of the latter are the one which are used for   hazardous chemicals that are being transported via rail or road. 

Is it required for teachers to incorporate GHS in classes?

While it is advisable to use Globally Harmonized System in classes, it is not, by all means required. Although it is strongly encouraged to integrate GHS in classes because it can help the students get acquainted with labeling symbols, and eventually memorize them, and have a smooth transition from DG to GHS.

How can you make sure your labeling complies with GHS?

The allotted five years for transition period will require you to update everything in your workplace such as SDS, chemical labels, manifests, etc. So ask for a documentation of compliant stock from your chemical suppliers. This is not only a way of ensuring that you comply with GHS, but doing so will greatly lessen your operational tasks and workloads by the end of December 2016 .

The hazard classification, labeling and SDS using GHS is widely used in Australia, in pursuance to the implementations of WHS Regulation 2011. So it is not surprising to find almost all suppliers from local and international market to be using the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and labeling of Chemicals. Nonetheless, the shifting from DG to GHS need to be prioritized and closely monitored first.