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May 07 2016

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is an international approach to what is commonly known as the Hazards Communication Standard (HCS) which has been in place in the United States since 1983. The GHS was authored by the United Nations (UN) with the goal of harmonizing workplace chemical hazard classification and labeling across the world. The rational for this harmonization is that the current country by country hazard classification and communication laws are dissimilar and result in inconsistent information for similar products. The UN determined the need to harmonize and improve safety information and facilitate international trade through a compatible classification system. The new GHS system will change how chemical hazard information is communicated by providing a new format for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which will now be called Safety Data Sheets, (SDS) and reformatting the information found on the label of hazardous substances and mixtures.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

The HCS contained specific requirements for the information to be conveyed on the MSDS, however, no specific format was mandated. Chemical manufacturers were allowed to develop their own formats, providing all required information was included. Information not required by the HCS was often incorporated into the MSDS. An example of this would be Volatile Organic Content (VOC’s) which were often incorporated into the MSDS as a method of conveying the information to users of the products. The GHS provides a standardized approach. The information required on an SDS follows detailed criteria for determining the hazards which are present and provides information as to the effects of each particular hazard. The goal is to provide better, more detailed information and eliminate confusion among users of these documents. The SDS format incorporates the standard information from the old MSDS System. Sections 1 through 8 contain familiar information regarding chemical identification: hazards, composition, safe handling practices and emergency response information. Sections 9 through 11 contain expanded technical information regarding chemical properties, toxicological, properties and exposure information. Sections 11 through 15 contain the information required to make the document consistent with the UN developed GHS. This includes ecological information, disposal considerations, transportation, and other regulatory information. This new approach to the development of these documents is quite different from the former standard. The specific information now required for physical hazards, along with the detailed instructions for hazard evaluation and determinations, is, in many cases, not currently available. A great deal of the information has only become available recently.