How h
as the world been able to safely ensure the manufacturing, distribution and practice of extremely hazardous goods? The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) came to fruition in 1992 at the United Nations Rio Conference. At this time there was a large increase in international chemical trade. Most of the countries involved in such trades used different chemical and labeling systems that posed many potentially dangerous situations which caused the United Nations to decide that the populace needed to be on the same page. And so GHS was born.


The U.S. officially adopted GHS on March 26, 2012 when it became law throughout the country. Many people often confuse GHS for a mandatory system that all countries of the U.N must abide by when in fact it’s merely a recommendation of good practices that not all regions partake in. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), 72 countries (including Canada) have implemented GHS and that number is still growing. 


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as of December 1, 2015, distributors are no longer allowed to “ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) compliant label.” And as of June 1, 2016, all companies must have updated workplace labeling and hazard communication programs as well as given employees renewed training.


Other changes have come about as well.


A Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly known as a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), administers guidance for how to properly handle hazardous substances and comprises of information, composition and properties of said substance. This is a mandatory 16-section document all companies must include with chemical-related products. 


OSHA estimates that GHS will save 43 lives annually and prevent 585 injuries and illnesses. This will result in an estimated $475 million in enhanced productivity for U.S. businesses each year. In addition, OSHA predicts that companies will face up to $7,000 per infraction and up to $70,000 for repeated violations.


While only 72 of 193 countries in the United Nations have enabled this system, GHS is still growing and has helped many countries to coordinate similar chemical management schemes.


Are the products your company is receiving GHS compliant? Be prepared and check your inventory. DiVal sells GHS-compliant labels and supplies.


DiVal Safety offers a training course in OSHA GHS (formerly Hazard Communication (Right-to-Know)). Anyone interested in registering or learning more should contact Training Coordinator Judy Trent at 800-343-1354, ext. 3153 or at


                                                                                                                            Credit: OSHA


Glossary (according to


Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)- includes criteria for the classification of health, physical and environmental hazards, as well as specifying what information should be included on labels of hazardous chemicals as well as safety data sheets. The United States was an active participant in the development of the GHS, and is a member of the UN bodies established to maintain and coordinate implementation of the system.


Hazard Communication Standard (HCS)- requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)- the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation.


Safety Data Sheet (SDS) (formerly Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS))- includes information such as the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical.