Many people are asking “What is GHS and what does it mean for me?” GHS is an acronym for Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The concept of GHS is to have a globally harmonized system in place for the classification of chemicals, the content of labels and safety data sheets (SDS). This concept is not new as the transportation sector has in place a global system for the transport of dangerous goods that covers classification of chemicals, packaging, labels, placards and shipping documents. The transport sector is governed by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods (UNCETDG). As there was no harmonization in the workplace or consumer sectors, the UN expanded the UNCETDG and created the UNSCEGHS – United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on GHS. The UNCETDG was re-named UNSCETDG and both committees report to the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (CETDGGHS).
The first edition of GHS appeared in December 2002. The first revised edition was available in 2005 and contained amendments for items such as: aspiration hazards, guidance on pictograms, precautionary statements and preparation of SDSs. The second revised edition came out in 2007 containing amendments for: explosives, toxic by inhalation, skin sensitizers, respiratory sensitizers, building block approach and codification of precautionary and hazard statements. The third revised edition (2009) contained amendments for: labelling of small packages, chronic toxicity for aquatic environments and new provisions for the allocation of hazard statements. The fourth revised edition (2011) contains amendments for: new hazard categories for unstable gases and non-flammable aerosols, clarification of precautionary statements and further clarification of some of the criteria.
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