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Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals

Learn how the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for chemical classification, labeling, and hazard communication affects chemical use at UC San Diego.

About GHS

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, or GHS, is an international system of chemical classification, labeling, and hazard communication adopted by the United Nations in 2003. The United States participated in development of the GHS and U.S. regulatory agencies are adopting the system.

The goal of the new system is to improve worker safety and health by providing easy to understand chemical hazard and precaution information on labels, in Safety Data Sheets, and during safety training.

U.S. Hazard Communication Standards Aligned with GHS

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised the federal Hazard Communication Standard in 2012 to align with the United Nations' GHS. Cal/OSHA revised California's Hazard Communication Standard to conform with the GHS.

In the United States implementation of the GHS will harmonize hazard definitions and label information among U.S. regulatory agencies (CPSC, DOT, EPA, OSHA, etc.). As more countries around the world adopt the GHS, standardization of chemical hazard information on the labels and Safety Data Sheets of imported chemicals should enable trained workers to more easily understand hazards and take appropriate precautions.

How GHS implementation affects UC San Diego

Changes in the Hazard Communication Standard affects all use of chemicals at UC San Diego.

Please become familiar with its content as the campus begins to implement these changes. The revised Hazard Communication Standard incorporates internationally accepted criteria for:

  • Hazard classification – Provides specific criteria for the classification of health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals and mixtures.
  • Labels – Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word (either "Danger" or "Warning"), pictogram, and hazard and precaution statements for each hazard class and category.
  • Safety Data Sheets – Will now have a specified 16-section format.
  • Training and information – Employers are required to train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding. Early training is important because American workers will soon begin to see GHS-compliant labels and Safety Data Sheets in the workplace.
Questions? Contact the EH&S Chemical Hygiene Officer, (858) 822-1579.
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