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Globally Harmonized System FAQ

What is the Globally Harmonized System?

A. The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is an international approach to hazard communication, providing agreed criteria for classification of chemical hazards, and a standardized approach to label elements and safety data sheets. The GHS was negotiated in a multi-year process by hazard communication experts from many different countries, international organizations, and stakeholder groups. It is based on major existing systems around the world, including OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard and the chemical classification and labeling systems of other US agencies.

The result of this negotiation process is the United Nations' document entitled "Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals," commonly referred to as The Purple Book. This document provides harmonized classification criteria for health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals. It also includes standardized label elements that are assigned to these hazard classes and categories, and provide the appropriate signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements to convey the hazards to users. A standardized order of information for safety data sheets is also provided. These recommendations can be used by regulatory authorities such as OSHA to establish mandatory requirements for hazard communication, but do not constitute a model regulation.

Effective Dates

The table below summarizes the phase-in dates required under the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS):

Effective Completion Date
Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format.
Dec. 1, 2013
Chemical manufacturers,importers, distributors, and employers Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule except:

The distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label
June 1, 2015

Dec. 1, 2015
Employers Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. June 1, 2016

Links to free GHS training:

OSHA: GHS information and Materials


ISSA : GHS Training