The recently adopted Globally Harmonized System has introduced a number of changes to how hazardous chemicals are classified and labelled. This GHS guide aims to inform on the basic requirements.

What is GHS?

Created by the United Nations, GHS or the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals is an international methodology for chemical classification, labelling and safety data sheets (SDS).

GHS became mandatory across Australia as of January 1st, 2017 as a result of new WHS legislation that was adopted in 2012. The new system provides a single worldwide standard and harmonization for classifying and labelling hazardous substances and dangerous goods in order to provide a consistent approach to hazard communication, reduce costs and time, remove barriers to trade and protect people and the environment from chemical hazards.

Who is Affected?

Manufacturers, importers, suppliers are responsible for determining if a chemical is hazardous, correctly classifying chemicals, ensuring correct labelling and preparing SDS for hazardous chemicals.

End users are less affected and are not required to relabel or dispose of existing stock. However, suppliers and end users must only supply and accept hazardous chemicals which have been classified and labelled in accordance with the GHS.

What Are The Changes?

The GHS has introduced changes across pictograms, labels and safety data sheets.

GHS labels are used to convey information about the type, severity and management of chemical hazards.

The new labels have 7 core elements:

  1. Product Identifier – Chemical identities and proportions of a substance or hazardous ingredients in a mixture; Should match the SDS identifier
  2. Signal Word – Used to identify hazard severity level; Danger (severe) or Warning (less severe);
  3. Hazard Pictogram – Graphical symbols visually conveying different types of chemical hazards;
  4. Hazard Statements – Assigned phrases that describe the hazard(s) as determined by hazard classification;
  5. Precautionary Statements – Standardised phrases that describe measures to minimize or prevent adverse effects;
  6. Supplier Identification – The name, address and telephone number of a supplier or manufacturer;
  7. Expiry Date – If applicable.

Label Template

A safety data sheet (SDS) a document used by chemical manufacturers, importers and suppliers to convey critical information about hazardous chemicals they provide to end users.

SDS must provide information on the:

  • Properties of hazardous chemicals
  • Health, safety and workplace hazards
  • Emergency response measures
  • Safe handling and storage procedures
  • Environmental effects and disposal considerations

In Australia, manufacturers and imports of hazardous chemicals must prepare SDS in accordance with the model Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals. Failure to create SDS correctly is a breach of WHS.

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals contains a standard specification for SDS which includes an internationally agreed 16 section format.

The 16 sections are:

  • Section 1—Identification: product identifier and chemical identity
  • Section 2—Hazard(s) identification
  • Section 3—Composition and information on ingredients
  • Section 4—First aid measures
  • Section 5—Firefighting measures
  • Section 6—Accidental release measures
  • Section 7—Handling and storage, including how the chemical may be safely used
  • Section 8—Exposure controls and personal protection
  • Section 9—Physical and chemical products
  • Section 10—Stability and reactivity
  • Section 11—Toxicological information
  • Section 12—Ecological information
  • Section 13—Disposal considerations
  • Section 14—Transport information
  • Section 15—Regulatory information
  • Section 16—Any other relevant information

Manufacturers or importers of hazardous chemicals are responsible for:

  • Preparing SDS for hazardous chemicals as soon as possible
  • Reviewing SDS at least once every five years and amending when necessary
  • Providing current SDS to end users and anyone who asks for it
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