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Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

***All employees must complete the Hazard Communication Update - GHS training on Cornerstone (if questions arise contact EH&S) Complete the quiz to fulfill the training requirements.

Is an international approach to hazard communication that provides agreed upon criteria for:

  • Classification of chemical hazards
  • Standardized approach to Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets)
  • New labeling requirements for chemical containers.

Benefits of GHS:

  • Enhance comprehension of hazards
  • More hazard information on labels
  • Easier to find information on SDS
  • Single set of criteria for information from manufacturers

GHS was a multi-year process, which involved many different countries, international organizations and stakeholder groups.  The GHS improves the safety of employees by providing more efficient and effective chemical hazard information.  The standardization of chemical hazard information around the world ensures all pertinent knowledge is included on the labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).  This system will enable faculty, staff, students, health professionals, and emergency respondents to access the most current data on chemical hazards they are in contact.

The Globally Harmonized System is not a regulation by itself, but is incorporated in the OSHA Hazard Communication/Right to Know Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200 Subpart Z). 

The major changes that GHS made to the Hazcom 2012 Update are as follows:

Hazard Classification

  • Definitions are more specific for health and physical hazard criteria, as well as mixtures.
  • These specifics will enable more consistent classifications for manufacturers.
  • Ensures Safety Data Sheets and labels are more universal.


Must include the following:

Signal Word:

Used to indicated the relative severity of the hazard. It alerts the reader to a potential hazard on the label.
"Danger" - A more severe hazard
"Warning" - A less severe hazard


Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed with a red border and represents a distinct hazard. The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classification. A total of 9 pictograms, eight of being mandatory and the ninth (Environment - Aquatic Toxicity) non-mandatory.

Hazard Statement:

Describes the nature and degree of the hazards of a chemical
Fatal if swallowed (signal word: Danger)
Harmful if swallowed (signal word: Warning)

Precautionary Statement:

Describes recommended measures to prevent and minimize adverse effects from exposure or improper handling and storage.

Addresses the following:

  • Prevention 
  • Response 
  • Storage 
  •  Disposal 
Examples:  Keep container tightly closed, keep away from heat/sparks/open flame

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

  • Name change from Material Safety Data Sheets to Safety Data Sheets.
  • Standardized 16 section format.

Globally Harmonized System Resources
GHS Handbook (The Purple Book)


Safety Data Sheets