GHS Basics

A major problem faced by the chemical industry worldwide is the inconsistency between national and regional systems for chemical classification. In 2003, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS is an international consensus system for classifying and labeling hazardous substances.

A globally harmonized system is intended to replace these multiple systems with one uniform system that all parties have adopted. The globally harmonized system provides a basis for synchronization of MSDS material safety data sheets by specifying rules and regulations on hazardous substances at national, regional and worldwide levels.

The globally harmonized system classification is intended to enhance environmental protection, public health and reduce trade barriers by using universal hazard statements, pictograms and signal words to communicate information on product labels and material safety data sheets for hazardous substances.

The global harmonization system will have tremendous effects on the chemical data management industry. As OSHA moves toward complying with the globally harmonized system, it is important to maintain MSDSs that are compliant with the global harmonization system GHS regulations. Regulatory revisions will call for GHS MSDS authoring in both content and format of current material safety data sheets as the GHS is implemented throughout the US.

In the United States, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) cannot adopt the global harmonization system without the authorization of the US Congress.


To learn more about the Globally Harmonized System Classification (GHS), visit GHS FAQ.