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Know Your Hazards: 5 Commonly Asked Questions About The GHS


According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. GHS defines and classifies the hazards of chemical products, and communicates health and safety information on labels and safety data sheets).

The goal is that the same set of rules for classifying hazards, and the same format and content for labels and safety data sheets (SDS) will be adopted and used around the world. An international team of hazard communication experts developed GHS.

1. How is the GHS used?

The GHS establishes the rules for hazardous chemicals in transportation, workplace use and consumer use, as well as special rules for pesticides. It also includes Safety Data Sheet (SDS), or Safety Data Sheet (SDS), requirements and new hazard symbols and includes standards for classifying chemicals, symbols for hazards, labeling requirements and safety data sheet requirements.

2. Why was the GHS established?

GHS began when the United Nations recognized the need to harmonize the various national and regional systems that control the classification of chemicals around the world. They wanted to eliminate inconsistences and harmonize existing systems by establishing a unique system for identifying hazardous materials and giving warnings to users.

The main goals of the GHS as set out by the United Nations were to improve safety, decrease supplier costs, and generally make international shipment and sales of chemical products easier. It was also designed to ensure that people all over the world would receive the same basic standard of protection when using these hazardous products.

3. Who is affected under the GHS?

Any company that has or stores chemicals in their workplace is covered under the GHS. This means that these companies must provide labels and safety data sheets for any of their workers who may be around these chemicals or have to work with them. They must also provide training to them about the proper handling, storage and use of these dangerous chemicals and materials.

The GHS pictograms will establish a common system of chemical classification, establish new labeling provisions, including standardized pictograms, signal words and hazard statements as well as Safety Data Sheets that must be adhered to by all employers.

4. What is the GHS ‘Purple Book’?

When it first introduced the GHS, the United Nations published all of the information about this program in what is called the ‘Purple Book’. This became the standard for all information about the GHS and was designed to serve as the initial basis for the global implementation of the GHS system. Since its initial publication, this has been updated, revised and improved every two years as needs arise and experience is gained in its implementation.

In 2010, significant amendments were made to the ‘Purple Book’ that included adding new hazard categories for chemically unstable gases and non-flammable aerosols. This document serves as a reference for GHS for governments, regional institutions and international organizations, as well as the industry that is responsible for implementing its recommendations.

5. Training for employees on GHS

All employees who deal with these chemicals must be trained as part of hazard communication. This includes being informed in writing of the presence of hazardous chemicals and the operations where they are used in their workplace. There must also be verbal communication and training to explain specific data, measures to detect, procedures to follow and equipment that workers can use to protect themselves from these hazards.

Over the years, this training has expanded as the GHS directives have been amended and now employers are expected to provide initial GHS training, and then to provide supplemental training to their employees whenever things change.


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