Here are some of the most common myths about the Globally Harmonized System, debunked.
- GHS (the Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) is now what OSHA uses for their Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).
Partially true. OSHA actually revised the HCS in 2012, calling it HazCom 2012. It’s aligned with GHS, but it’s not identical.
- GHS is a global law or regulation in which the United Nations acts as governing body over.
Not true. It is a system developed by the United Nations to standardize chemical labeling and management globally. The objective is to improve human health and the environment by enhancing the quality and consistency of hazard information. It is not required for any country to adopt any part of GHS. Essentially it’s an “opt-in” program. So far, more than 65 countries have either adopted parts of GHS or are in the process of doing so. Each adopting country is responsible for its own enforcement and set of rules within its jurisdiction.
- HazCom 2012 only changed its label requirements in regards to aligning with GHS.
False. The labels do look different; they consist of standardized elements which include pictograms and specific language depending on the classification of the chemical. Other major changes from the alignment with GHS include:
- Hazard classification process and definitions
- Use of safety data sheets (SDS) to replace material safety data sheets (MSDS)
- Required training
- Non-hazardous chemicals will need an SDS.
No, OSHA does not require or encourage SDSs to be maintained for non-hazardous chemicals.
- In the U.S. the only agency impacted by the GHS alignment is OSHA.
Incorrect. Along with OSHA, the GHS alignment is also under the domain of the:
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- It’s costing the U.S. millions to act aligned with GHS.
Not really. The long term savings far outweigh the short term costs of the transition. The cost of the changeover to HazCom 2012 is estimated at $201 million—but the savings are estimated at $500 million per year, while preventing 43 fatalities per year and 585 injuries annually.
- GHS labels must come from chemical suppliers
False. The new SDSs (not the labels) will generally come from chemical suppliers. You can make your own labels, based on those SDSs, once you’re trained on the new HazCom 2012 specifications.
- When creating your own GHS labels, you must follow the minimum size requirements for the diamonds and pictograms.
Not entirely true. GHS labels do have size requirements established by the UN but the U.S. did not adopt any size requirements for HazCom 2012. Use a common sense approach when placing pictograms proportionate to the size of the text on the label.