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New Mexico State University

HazCom & Globally Harmonized System

GHS & HazCom

On March 26, 2012, the Federal Register published the final rule on Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (known as GHS). The effective date of the rule was 60 days after publication or May 25, 2012.

I. Changes to the 1984 HazCom Standards include hazard classifications, labels, safety data sheet format. An implementation schedule for compliance, Training (users), Label & SDS changes (Manufactures) was provided.

a. Hazard classification: The definitions of hazard have been changed to provide manufactures specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria are to ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers internationally, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate as a result.

GHS Hazard Pictograms

b. Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided. (see labels section below)

c. Safety Data Sheets (SDS no longer called MSDS): The current Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) indicates what information has to be included on an SDS but does not specify a format for presentation or order of information. The revised HCS requires that the information on the SDS is presented using consistent headings in a specified sequence. The SDS format is the same as the ANSI standard format which is widely used in the U.S. and is already familiar to many employees. The specified 16-section format is to include the following sections:

Section 1. Identification
Section 2. Hazard(s) identification
Section 3. Composition/information on ingredients
Section 4. First-Aid measures
Section 5. Fire-fighting measures
Section 6. Accidental release measures
Section 7. Handling and storage
Section 8. Exposure controls/personal

Section 9. Physical & chemical properties
Section 10. Stability & reactivity
Section 11. Toxicological information
Section 12. Ecological information
Section 13. Disposal considerations
Section 14. Transport information
Section 15. Regulatory information
Section 16. Other information, e.g.  preparation
date, last revision

Sections 12-15 may be included in the SDS, but are not required by OSHA.


II. LABELS will include a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category.  


Signal word: a single word on the label to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. The signal words used are "danger" and "warning."
" is used for the more severe hazards, while "warning" is used for less severe hazards.

Pictograms: There are nine pictograms under the GHS to convey the health, physical and environmental hazards. The final Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires eight of these pictograms, the exception being the environmental pictogram, as environmental hazards are not within OSHA's jurisdiction. The hazard pictograms and their corresponding hazards are shown below.


HCS Pictograms and Hazards

Health Hazard
Health Hazard
Exclamation Mark
Exclamation Mark
• Carcinogen
• Mutagenicity
• Reproductive Toxicity
• Respiratory Sensitizer
• Target Organ Toxicity
• Aspiration Toxicity
• Flammables
• Pyrophorics
• Self-Heating
• Emits Flammable Gas
• Self-Reactives
• Organic Peroxides
• Irritant (skin and eye)
• Skin Sensitizer
• Acute Toxicity (harmful)
• Narcotic Effects
• Respiratory Tract Irritant
• Hazardous to Ozone Layer
(Non Mandatory)
Gas Cylinder
Gas Cylinder
Exploding Bomb
Exploding Bomb
• Gases under Pressure • Skin Corrosion/ burns
• Eye Damage
• Corrosive to Metals
• Explosives
• Self-Reactives
• Organic Peroxides
Flame over Circle
Flame over Circle
Skull and Crossbones
Skull and Crossbones
• Oxidizers • Aquatic Toxicity • Acute Toxicity (fatal or toxic)


Hazard Statement: a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard (shown with the pictograms above).


b.  WORKPLACE LABELS (aka Secondary Container Labels)  

GHS Hazard Pictograms

The current standard provides employers with flexibility regarding the type of system to be used in their workplaces and OSHA has retained that flexibility in the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).

Employers may choose to label workplace containers either with the same label that would be on shipped containers for the chemical under the revised rule, or with label alternatives that meet the requirements for the standard.

Alternative labeling systems such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 704 Hazard Rating and the Hazardous Material Information System (HMIS) are permitted for workplace containers.


Schedule for implementation

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


Effective Completion DateRequirement(s)Who
December 1, 2013 Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format. Employers

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. Employers
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


IV. OSHA Guide and Video

V. Other Federal Agency GHS Activities


David L. Shearer, Assistant Director, Environmental Health & Safety 


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