Globally Harmonized System

GHS is the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. It was developed by an international group of experts under the auspices of the United Nations for standardizing and harmonizing the classification and labeling of chemicals. The process started with an international mandate in 1992 and the first iteration of the document was published in 2001 by the UN Sub-Committee of experts on GHS (UNSCEGHS). This committee is responsible for maintaining and updating the standard. The current version is Revision 4.

The goals for the development and implementation of GHS are to:

  • Enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing an internationally comprehensible system for hazard communication
  • Provide a recognized framework for those countries without an existing system
  • Reduce the need for testing and evaluation of chemicals
  • Facilitate international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been properly assessed and identified on an international basis

GHS has been adopted by 67 countries. Some of the countries or regions have fully implemented GHS including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. The EU has fully implemented this for pure substances and is in the process of implementing the system for mixtures. The United States implementation began with the publication of a revision to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) in 2012. Canada expects to have its final regulation ready in late 2013.

GHS is a set of building blocks regarding physical hazards, health hazards and environmental hazards. Countries can adopt all or some of the building blocks as part of their implementation of the system. GHS includes:

  • Harmonized criteria for classifying substances and mixtures
  • Harmonized hazard communication elements for labeling and Safety Data Sheets


United States Implementation Schedule

March 26, 2012
Publication of standard in the Federal Register.

May 25, 2012
Revision of 29CFR 1910.1200 Hazard Communication Standard became effective.

December 1, 2013
Employers are required to train employees on the new label and SDS elements.

June 1, 2015
Compliance with all requirements.

December 1, 2015
Distributors shall not ship any container without a GHS compliant label.

June 1, 2016
Update alternative workplace labeling systems and hazard communication programs.


Additional Information