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Are You Ready for the Globally Harmonized System?

If you have not heard yet, the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) that you receive with chemicals used in your operation will take on a new look by mid-2015. Several countries, including the European countries and Japan, have moved towards this global chemical data management initiative. In March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised the Hazard Communication standard to align with the Globally Harmonized System(GHS). Hazards w crossbones

What is the GHS?

The GHS was developed by the United Nations to ensure global communication of hazards associated with chemicals. The harmonization factor is use of labels and symbols, and restructuring the MSDSs to ensure consistent communication of those hazards. You will begin observing new information on MSDSs in the near future.

Important Next Steps

Educate you and your management team on GHS – what this means to your operation, how will you educate and train your employees on how to read the new MSDSs and labeling system, and how you will handle the re-labeling of secondary containers in your operation. 

  • You have until December 1, 2013 to perform the training noted above. 
  • If you are a manufacturer or distributor, your company has until June 1, 2015 to reclassify your chemicals and produce GHS-formatted safety data sheets and labels for items shipping to downstream users.

GHS Resources

You can begin reviewing information on GHS on the OSHA website. Information on the comparison of hazard communication requirements is available online. A guide to the GHS classification and http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/ghs.html labelling system can be downloaded as well.

Other resources include the following:



What has your company done to address the changes brought on by standardization and the GHS?  Have you reviewed the labels, pictograms, and 16-section MSDS requirements?  Tell us about your journey!

Suzanne Coleman is a senior risk control representative out of the Nashville office of Westfield Insurance. She has worked in the insurance industry for 20 years.