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Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

At the 1992 UN Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) was proposed to harmonize the classification and the hazard communication of chemicals for labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

 

The first version of this proposal became available in 2003 in the purple book, an orange book was produced for transportation. This standard is expected to be updated every two (2) years.

The GHS method of classification is based on the intrinsic properties of substances and harmonizes most classification criteria for supply and transportation of chemical substances.

Individual countries or regions at their own discretion can implement their own building blocks. However, the building blocks may not be altered. The GHS provides accommodations for Competent Authority Options and special limits for the communication of components in mixtures.

Why was the GHS developed 

The GHS was fundamentally developed to aid in the following overall goals:

  • Grow International trade

  • Eliminate different requirements for labeling of chemicals between different countries and regions

  • Create a universal classification for products

  • Create an international safety standard for chemicals

Elements of the GHS

Compared to the system used in the European Union the most noticeable changes are the pictograms formerly known as "Hazard Symbols". While most of the GHS pictograms had an equivalent in the old system, pictograms: 

  • GHS 04 

  • GHS 07 

  • GHS 08

are completely new. 

The GHS System defines:

  • 16 physical 

  • 10 health and

  • 3 environmental

 

hazard classes and has the following communication elements:

  • 9 Pictograms

  • 2 Signal words "Danger" or "Warning"

  • 72 individual and 17 combined Hazard Statements

    • Assigned a unique alphanumerical code which consists of one letter and three numbers.

  • 116 individual and 33 combined Precautionary Statements

    • Assigned a unique alphanumerical code which consists of one letter and three numbers.

Pictograms

Health Hazard

  • Carcinogen

  • Mutagenicity

  • Reproductive Toxicity

  • Respiratory Sensitizer

  • Target Organ Toxicity

  • Aspiration Toxicity

Gas Cylinder

  • Gases Under Pressure

Flame Over Circle

  • Oxidizers

Flame

  • Flammables

  • Pyrophorics

  • Self-Heating

  • Emits Flammable Gas

  • Self-Reactives

  • Organic Peroxides

Corrosion

  • Skin Corrosion/Burns

  • Eye Damage

  • Corrosive to Metals

Environment
(Non-Mandatory)

  • Aquatic Toxicity

Exclamation Mark

  • Irritant (skin and eye)

  • Skin Sensitizer

  • Acute Toxicity (harmful)

  • Narcotic Effects

  • Respiratory Tract Irritant

  • Hazardous to Ozone Layer (Non-Mandatory

Exploding Bomb

  • Explosives

  • Self-Reactives

  • Organic Peroxides

Skull and Crossbones

  • Acute Toxicity
    (fatal or toxic)

Signal words

There are only two signal words in GHS:

"Danger" or "Warning"

They are used to emphasize chemical hazards and indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard.

"Danger" indicates more severe hazards. Signal word is one integral part of a GHS label.

72 individual and 17 combined Hazard Statements

These are assigned a unique alphanumerical code which consists of one letter and three numbers:

  1. The letter "H" - "Hazard Statement"

  2. A number designating the type of hazard:
    - "2" for Physical Hazards
    - "3" for Health Hazards
    - "4" for Environmental Hazards

  3. Two numbers corresponding to the sequential numbering of hazards arising from the intrinsic properties of the substance or mixture, such as explosive properties, codes from 200 to 210, flammability, codes from 220 to 230, etc.

116 individual and 33 combined Precautionary Statements

These are assigned a unique alphanumerical code which consists of one letter and three numbers:

  1. The letter "P" - "Precautionary Statement"

  2. One number designating the type of Precautionary Statement: 
    - "1" for general precautionary statements
    - "2" for prevention precautionary statements
    - "3" for response precautionary statements
    - "4" for storage precautionary statements
    - "5" for disposal precautionary statements

  3. Two numbers (corresponding to the sequential numbering of precautionary statements)

You can find more detailed and in-depth information here.