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NFPA PlacardGlobal Harmonized System Accepted by OSHA

As we move closer to the Global Harmonized System for Hazard Communication, there are some things that you should know…  

Hazard Communication Standard (HCS)

Chemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (such as flammability, corrosion, and reactivity). OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), first issued in 1983, is designed to ensure that employers provide information about these hazards and associated protective measures to their workers. 

The HCS gives workers the right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to in the workplace. When workers have this information, they can participate in their employers' protective programs and take steps to protect themselves.

The Right to Understand

Workers have sometimes had difficulty understanding information presented on safety data sheets (SDSs). In some cases the length and complexity of the documents have made it difficult for workers to locate important safety information. 

 OSHA's harmonized standard will ensure that workers have access not only to labels and safety data sheets, but also to information that is easier to find and understand through the use of standardized formats and label elements: signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, and precautionary statements.

What is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS)?

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets. These criteria and elements will help chemical manufacturers to determine if a chemical product produced and/or supplied is hazardous and explains how to prepare an appropriate label and/or safety data sheet.

The GHS is being implemented around the world in countries such as Australia, the EU, and China. The GHS Document (shown below) provides countries with the regulatory building blocks to develop or modify existing national programs that address classification of hazards and transmittal of information about those hazards and associated protective measures. This helps to ensure the safe use of chemicals as they move through the product life cycle and around the world. 

Hazard Communication Standard Pictogram

As of June 1, 2015, the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will require pictograms on labels to alert users of the chemical hazards to which they may be exposed. Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents a distinct hazard(s). The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classification. 

GHS Symbols

Hazard Communication Safety Data Sheets

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDSs) to communicate the hazards of hazardous chemical products. As of June 1, 2015, the HCS will require new SDSs to be in a uniform format, and include the section numbers, the headings, and associated information under the headings below: 

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. 

Hazard Communication Standard Labels 

OSHA has updated the requirements for labeling of hazardous chemicals under its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). As of June 1, 2015, all labels will be required to have pictograms, a signal word, hazard and precautionary statements, the product identifier, and supplier identification. A sample revised HCS label, identifying the required label elements, is shown on the right. Supplemental information can also be provided on the label as needed. 

New GHS Label

Effective Dates

The table below summarizes the phase-in dates required under the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS): 

Effective Completion Date 



December 1, 2013  

Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format. 


June 1, 2015*  

December 1, 2015 

Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule, except:  

The Distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label 

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers 

June 1, 2016 

Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. 


Transition Period to the effective completion dates noted above 

May comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (the final standard), or the current standard, or both 

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers 

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