GHS Implementation & What It Means For Your Business

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals – GHS – is a system that was adopted by OSHA to facilitate the standardization of chemical identification; focused on aligning safety hazard communications within the workplace. While these GHS implementation tactics will be mainly targeting chemical manufacturers and distributors, it is still important for all businesses to be aware of these changes to ensure these safety precautions are being followed correctly within their workplace. What does this mean for your business? Let’s go over these changes to ensure your business is up-to-date with these new standards.

New GHS Labels

One of the most noticeable changes stemmed from the GHS implementation is the new labelling standards. These new labels will have an easier-to-read layout and will include the following:

  • GHS hazard pictograms: There are 9 hazard identification pictograms included in the GHS classification. These are small pictures with a black symbol, white background, and red border; characterizing the type of chemical hazard within.
  • Signal Words: These will indicate the severity of the chemical hazards with words like: “Danger” (more severe) and “Caution” (less severe).
  • Product Identification: This will include the name of the chemical, as well as any unique identifiers or code that need to be announced.
  • Supplier Identification: This will include the name, address, and phone number of the supplying company. Will also include any other responsible parties – like importers.
  • Precautionary Statement(s): This will include all necessary measures ensure safety around all aspects of the chemical from proper handling techniques to first aid tips in case of exposure.

MSDS to SDS Conversion

Another important aspect of the GHS implementation to point out is the conversion from the old material safety data sheets (MSDS) to the new Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The removal of the letter “M” has caused an upheaval of confusion throughout the industry, but the truth is, these two sheets are essentially the same thing. The reasoning behind the SDS conversion is solely to create a unified piece of information throughout all businesses, in order to prevent any missed information caused by the former MSDS’s. No matter how you employ these new changes, it is important that your business is following the formatting guidelines of the new SDS’s.

The new SDS’s will be formatted into 16 sections:

Section 1, Identification: Includes product identifier; manufacturer or distributor name, address, phone number; emergency phone number; recommended use; restrictions on use.

Section 2, Hazard(s) identification: Includes all hazards regarding the chemical; required label elements.

Section 3, Composition/information on ingredients: Includes information on chemical ingredients; trade secret claims.

Section 4, First-aid measures: Includes important symptoms/ effects, acute, delayed; required treatment.

Section 5, Fire-fighting measures: Lists suitable extinguishing techniques, equipment; chemical hazards from fire.

Section 6, Accidental release measures: Lists emergency procedures; protective equipment; proper methods of containment and cleanup.

Section 7, Handling and storage: Lists precautions for safe handling and storage, including incompatibilities.

Section 8, Exposure controls/personal protection: Lists OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs); Threshold Limit Values (TLVs); appropriate engineering controls; personal protective equipment (PPE).

Section 9, Physical and chemical properties: Lists the chemical’s characteristics.

Section 10, Stability and reactivity: Lists chemical stability and possibility of hazardous reactions.

Section 11, Toxicological information: Includes routes of exposure; related symptoms, acute and chronic effects; numerical measures of toxicity.

Section 12, Ecological information*

Section 13, Disposal considerations*

Section 14, Transport information*

Section 15, Regulatory information*

Section 16, Other information: Includes the date of preparation or last revision.

*Note: Since other Agencies regulate this information, OSHA will not be enforcing Sections 12 through 15(29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(2)).

Employers must ensure that SDSs are readily accessible to employees.
See Appendix D of 1910.1200 for a detailed description of SDS contents.

(Source: OSHA’s SDS Quick Card)

Official Implementation Dates

  • September 12, 2006 – OSHA officially announced the upcoming changes to GHS (formerly known as HCS) and published an advanced notice of the proposed new rules.
  • June 1, 2015 – By this date, all manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers must comply with all of the new GHS safety provisions. Any chemicals being shipped after this date must be shipped with the new GHS formatted SDS’s and labels.
  • December 1, 2015 – Distributors shall not ship containers labeled by the manufacturer or importers unless the label is a GHS label.
  • June 1, 2016 – By this date, all workplaces must comply with the new GHS labelling standards. Businesses must also provide additional employee training for newly identified hazards.


It is important to ensure employers and their employees are properly trained on these new classification values that are included within the GHS changes. Essential to these updates, American Safety Council offers hazard communication training courses online. These courses are a fantastic resource to employees (or employers), and will provide an official OSHA Training Institute Certificate of Completion to show you are properly trained and up-to-date on these changes.

*Use discount code UPDATE for 50% off the course price*


Classifying, labeling, and documenting hazardous chemicals plays a massive role in maintaining workplace safety and facilitating international trade. As it stood before, many businesses had their own way of labeling hazardous chemicals – due to language barriers or different employers’ values. This discrepancy has been one of the leading causes of workplace injuries throughout the United States. The GHS changes are estimated to prevent 585 workplace injuries and 43 workplace fatalities per year; not only this, but these changes will also assist in protecting workplaces from liability cases and OSHA violations. Overall, it is important for your business to comply with these changes within the aforementioned deadlines to ensure your business will operate efficiently into the future.


By Guest Contributor : Taylor Tomita

Taylor Tomita is a creative writer residing in Boise, Idaho. With his large range of interests, he often is writing with the hopes of informing readers on news and updates throughout the business world. When not writing (or trying to survive the frigid Idaho winters) you can usually find Taylor creating music or talking about his giant cat.


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