Transitioning Tips

A major problem faced by the chemical industries 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).

A global harmonization system is intended to replace these multiple chemical classifications with one uniform system that all parties have adopted. The globally harmonized system provides a basis for synchronization of Material Safety Data Sheets by specifying rules and regulations of hazardous substances at national, regional and worldwide levels.

The globally harmonized system is a chemical classification system that 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.

The globally harmonized system will have tremendous effects on a variety of different industries, such as chemical industries, process manufacturing, healthcare, power utilities, retail, consumer products, aerospace and defense, flavor and fragrances, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and pesticides. As OSHA moves toward complying with the globally harmonized system, it is important to maintain MSDS sheets that are compliant with the GHS regulations. Regulatory revisions will call for revisions to MSDS sheets, MSDS safety sheets, MSDS data sheets, and other MSDS solutions in both content and format of current Material Safety Data Sheets as the GHS is implemented throughout the US.

OSHA has estimated that over seven million workplaces and 945,000 hazardous substances will be affected by the GHS in the US alone. While the execution of the GHS system will take place over the next few years, the changes will be extensive and considerable in nature. Meticulous preparation is the best way to guarantee a successful and smooth transition.

  • Stay Educated – To best determine the budding impact the global harmonization system will have on your organization, it is important to locate a good resource for GHS information related to the new changes and check it often.

  • Timeframes – It is crucial that you are aware of GHS system implementation dates in your country, as well as the countries in which you do business. Also, be familiar with the differences in GHS regulation among countries as it may affect your exportation process.

  • Don’t Go It Alone – Have a transition plan in place with your product and service providers to be sure that they are able to support you as you make the necessary changes. This includes vendors who assist with: training, MSDS management, authoring new compliant documents, GHS labeling, and transportation.

  • Vendor MSDS Management System – A chemical information management system will help aid in the administration of documents classified under existing and future regulations. Ensure your MSDS service is ready for the GHS system and is able to provide reliable and understandable communication to your employees.

  • Workplace Labels – Update labels on workplace chemicals to include the new GHS pictograms and statements. GHS labels may need to be produced before an updated MSDS service is available to ensure workplace safety and allow for uniformity.

  • Product MSDS Authoring and Distribution – Double check that your MSDS solution method will support GHS classification consistent with various countries’ requirements and that it will be able to create the necessary associated product labels and documents. Before full implementation is required, you may want to think about adding a supplement with GHS classifications and linked GHS pictograms to your current MSDS sheet.

  • Training Program – Training employees will be a crucial part of your overall GHS transition; key target audiences include employees exposed to hazardous substances, employees who store dangerous chemicals, and emergency responders such as: firefighters, hazardous material crews, and emergency medical technicians. You should begin to integrate GHS MSDS regulations as they are introduced into the workplace. If products are imported from countries that have executed the GHS system prior to the US, your personnel chemical safety and hazard training will need to begin earlier than expected.


To learn more about GHS and its effects on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), please contact MSDS Authoring Services.