A DSR’s Guide to Understanding GHS

ghsheaderTechnical specifications regarding chemicals and cleaning products is not typically an area of expertise for most DSR’s, making the recent changes regarding the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) especially daunting to understand.

When it comes to selling these products however, your customers may have questions, and the following guide to GHS compliance converts the abstruse jargon into easily understood answers.


What is GHS?


The goal of GHS is to simplify the classifying and labeling of chemicals for safety purposes. By attempting to create a unified system of chemical classification, the hope is to have a global understanding between all countries and nations regarding the potential dangers of certain products, by:

  • Defining health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals
  • Creating classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria
  • Communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) (the “M”, for material, was dropped in the new system of classification.)


Why create GHS?

mr-yukThe world as a whole has a countless amount of hazardous chemicals, and the ability for one agency to effectively regulate all of them is highly unrealistic. Currently each country controls it’s own regulations, meaning inconsistencies between national and international laws have become compliance nightmares, and safety is being jeopardized in the process. Some countries don’t even have a system for regulating, creating a potentially dangerous situation when these products cross international borders!

The GHS was developed by the United Nations as a way to bring into agreement the chemical regulations and standards of different countries. In short, it is an international attempt to get everyone on the same page. The hope is that every country will incorporate the tenets of the GHS into their own chemical management systems, with the goal of making the international sale and transportation of hazardous chemicals easier, while making workplace conditions safer for all employees exposed to chemical hazards.


What Does GHS Mean for You?

The benefits for companies implementing GHS on their products include increased quality and consistency of information, increased comprehension of hazards, improved downstream risk management, universal training, and facilitation of the international trade of chemicals.

The benefits for customers buying GHS-labeled chemicals include enhanced safety through more comprehensive labeling, more efficient delivery times, and easier international trade.

All GHS elements expected to be adopted, such as labels with core information and safety data sheets, will be accompanied by employee training videos and posters. (Click here for a very comprehensive offering of training materials available from OSHA.)

The GHS system is looking to improve knowledge of health hazards of chemicals and move towards elimination of carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxins by identifying these hazards with revised classifications that more closely align with current ISO, EU, and ANSI labeling standards.

In summary, GHS will be a new and improved version of existing labeling systems, allowing chemicals and hazardous materials to cross international borders without important safety information being lost in translation.

Important Dates to Remember:

The Federal Deadline states manufacturers must have SDS and labels in the uniform by June 1, 2015.

Distributors have an additional 6 months to turnover product and must be compliant by December 1, 2015.

All non-GHS labeled products must be out of the channel of trade by December 1, 2015.

Additionally, businesses must update alternative workplace labeling and HazCom programs as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards as of June 2016.

© Copyright 2015 RJ Schinner, All rights Reserved. Written For: DSR Sales Support Blog