The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is mandatory in most states and territories in Australia since 1 January 2017.
What is GHS
The GHS is a single internationally agreed system of chemical classification and hazard communication through labelling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS). It uses a common set of pictograms, signal words, hazard and precautionary warnings to universalise classifications.
The GHS includes harmonised criteria for the classification of:
• Physical hazards;
• Health hazards;
• Environmental hazards.
Benefits of the new system include:
• An internationally recognized system to protect human health;
• Easier transport and storage compliance across borders;
• Potential cost savings in evaluation testing with the move from testing against multiple classification standards to just one.
What are the changes?
The main changes from the previous system include:
• Signal words: there are now just two words to describe their hazard level – Danger or Warning. ‘Danger’ is used for a severe or a significant hazard, ‘Warning’ is used for a less severe hazard.
• Hazard statement: the hazard statement communicates the chemical’s nature and severity, using a straightforward language.
• Precautionary statement: Precautionary statements describe the recommended measures that should be taken to minimise or prevent harmful effects resulting from exposure, or improper storage or handling of a hazardous chemical.
• Safety Data Sheets (SDS): the current Australian 16-header format continues to apply.
Pictograms: there are nine hazard pictograms in the GHS which represent the physical, health and environmental hazards associated with hazardous chemicals.