What is the GHS
The globally harmonized system, or GHS, is a worldwide system and methodology that was introduced in order to properly define, classify and label chemicals and chemical products. The system is meant to combat the classification problem that exists in the chemical world: there are several different classification systems, and often even several within the same country. GHS intends to streamline these systems into one comprehensive system, which should reduce costs of compliance, simplify governmental agency responsibilities, increase trade around the world and provide consistent hazard information to customers, transporters and officials. GHS pictograms and GHS lables are an innovative way to rethink the chemical products business.
GHS Classification Techniques
The GHS classification system is actually relatively simple, but the complexity of the switchover come in the high initial cost of adoption. GHS requirements are intended to apply to all hazardous chemicals transported and sold worldwide, and the regulations may eventually be extended to include products used in industries as diverse as farming, pharmaceuticals, and lab testing.
Classify and Communicate
Essentially, GHS seeks to classify hazards and then communicate the impact of those hazards to workers and consumers. GHS proponents have introduced a set of rules or criteria that aims to establish a viable means of classifying pure chemicals and mixtures alike. These criteria are easily comprehensible to a trained chemist, but would be gibberish to most of the population. Therefore, the second stated goal of GHS is to communicate the compiled information effectively through the use of safety labels and safety data sheets. The labels mandated by GHS will require certain information to appear on each product: this information could include chemical identities, hazard statements, and signal words. Data sheets will not appear on the products themselves, but are intended to act as handy reference sheets for professionals.
A Question of Adoption
The adoption of GHS worldwide depends on the capacity of states to pass the material through their relevant legislative bodies. For example, Canada is in the midst of adopting the suggested guidelines of the GHS by including them in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) currently being passed by the government. Local circumstances dictate adoption, but Canada has been very proactive in its willingness to adopt GHS. The WHMIS was last updated in 1988 before the 2015 revision, and GHS adoption was a huge consideration of the government's in deciding to revise the system.
Most other countries are targeting implementation dates in 2016 or 2017, so theoretically most of North America and Europe could adopt the UN's recommended system within a few years. GHS is poised to have a tremendous positive impact on the chemical products industry, particularly in terms of safety and public comprehension of the danger of certain chemicals. You might be interested in visiting ICC Compliance Center Inc for more information.