Gradually, the development of international rules, regulations and standards continues. The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of classifying and labeling chemicals is one of these emerging standards. Learn about which industries might need to use these GHS Pictograms.

"What is the GHS?"

As the world conducts more international commerce, certain chemical hazard standards have needed to be upgraded. In 1992, the United Nations created the GHS system for classifying hazardous chemicals. The foundation for GHS labels has been the United States material safety data sheets. The GHS system simply uses the term "safety data sheets (SDS)."

Basically, when individuals are handling different chemicals, the GHS classification can help them to understand the general properties of a package, container or unit. The safety data sheets should contain the following 16 categories:

Name
Hazard
Composition
First Aid
Fire-Fighting
Accidental Release
Handling & Storage
Exposure Control
Physical & Chemical
Stability & Reactivity
Toxicological
Ecological
Disposal
Transport
Regulatory
Other

The primary role of these GHS safety labels is to help workers handle, store and transport these hazardous chemicals, safely. Caution can prevent any serious or even deadly accidents. Also, fire fighters are given essential information for responding to hazardous chemical spills.

"Voluntary Safety Data Sheet"

National sovereignty allows for each country to determine whether they will voluntarily accept these GHS safety labels, or not. The United Nations has made usage of the GHS Pictograms voluntary. It is not compulsory in Canada. Within the overall GHS classification, there are 9 different hazard classes:

Explosives
Gases
Flammable Liquids
Flammable Solids
Oxidizing Substances
Toxic
Radioactive
Corrosive to Metal
Miscellaneous

It is very important that workers handle these hazardous chemicals carefully. Some chemicals might explode in contact with water, pressure or heat. The GHS labels can also help businesses determine which protective clothing is needed for the head, eyes, skin, nose and lungs.

"GHS Pictograms Description"

The GHS Pictograms use a red diamond border and images to communicate any present dangers. Some GHS safety labels use the color blue for chemicals, which are caustic in contact with water. Yellow is used for hazardous gases. This helps individuals understand immediate chemical dangers.

Some of these pictograms might have a number on them, referring to the GHS classification system (i.e. 1.4 explosives). GHS uses recognizable symbols, like the skull-and-cross-bones and exclamation point. These pictograms can help bridge language barriers.

“Industries Needing GHS Labels"

If your company works with hazardous chemicals every day, then you might need to use GHS labels. The primary industries needing these labels, include mining, automotive, transportation, manufacturing, landscaping, semiconductor, package handling and health care. Canadians workers who deal with international import and export trade should also uses these special labels to prevent injuries, accidents and spills. For more information, visit ICC Compliance Center and learn more from the available resources.