Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

By on December 3, 2006

The GHS—an international approach to managing chemical hazards.

Although chemicals are extensively traded on a global basis, different countries often use different systems for the classification of chemical types and communication of associated chemical hazards.

The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) has been developed by the United Nations. The GHS is an important new tools that countries can use to develop or enhance their own national chemical regulation systems.

The GHS provides a uniform way of classifying chemicals, as well as informing chemical users about chemical hazards they may be exposed to. The GHS builds on the attributes of existing national regulatory systems to form a single international system that has application across a wide range of chemicals and hazard types.

The GHS when implemented will:

  • Enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing an internationally comprehensive system for hazard communication
  • Provide a recognised framework for those countries without an existing system
  • Reduce the need for testing and evaluation of chemicals, and
  • Facilitate international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been properly assessed and identified on an international basis.

GHS Pictograms

Pictograms are a key hazard communication tool within the GHS. They are designed to appear on chemical labels. The pictograms give an immediate indication of the type of hazard that the chemical may pose.

They are intended to be used in combination with other harmonised GHS elements which together convey information about the type, severity and management of chemical hazards.

GHS and Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace

A significant number of countries, including Australia, have indicated they will implement the GHS as a key part of their national chemical regulation systems by 2008.

The Australian Safety and Compensation Council is developing a national OHS standard and associated codes of practice which will be based on the key classification and communication elements of the GHS. These documents will facilitate the use of best practice in managing chemical hazards in Australian workplaces.

Supplied by Australian Government—Australian Safety & Compensation Council

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