GHS in North America and Europe – Where Are We Now?

Isn’t everyone using GHS for SDS’s and labels?

The answer to that is yes, and also no.

The European Union (EU)

In the EU, REACH [Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals] and GHS regulations [Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, or the ‘CLP’] have already been implemented for many years. Most phases of the EU’s implementation plan have already been completed. There is one last remaining date that has not yet passed, however, with respect to SDS’s and labels.

SDS’s and labels for pure substances are required to fully compliant with REACH and the CLP. The last transition date for pure substance SDS’s was completed on December 1, 2012. Any SDS and label for a pure substance after that date, had to be fully compliant with REACH and CLP regulations, and display only GHS information.

SDS’s and labels for mixtures, for products placed on the market in the EU for the first time after June 1, 2015, are also required to be fully compliant with REACH and the CLP, and display only GHS information.

Mixture SDS’s and labels, only for products already placed on the market in the EU for the first time before June 1, 2015, however, may still show old system EU information. These SDS’s and labels for mixtures, may still display the EU’s old system of regulations [Directive 1999/45/EC], which made use of Risk (R) and Safety (S) phrases, as well as square shaped, orange and black symbols. These SDS’s and Labels, have the last remaining compliance date, which is coming up fast, of June 1, 2017. Any SDS and label after that date, will have to be fully compliant with REACH and CLP regulations.

The United States

In the United States, GHS regulations have also already been implemented for a few years as well. All effective completion dates have passed in the United States. All SDS’s, labels, written Hazard Communication programs, and training must be fully compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazcom 2012 GHS standard. The last transition date, for Employer workplace systems, was completed on June 1, 2016.


In Canada, the implementation of GHS into existing regulations is currently in only its first transition phase. Health Canada’s Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) (ie. the ‘Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System 2015’, or ‘WHMIS 2015’), were only fairly recently published in February of 2015.

In its first transition phase, Manufacturers, Importers and Distributors, may comply with either the existing WHMIS regulation (‘WHMIS 1988’ or the ‘Controlled Products Regulations / CPR’), or the new WHMIS 2015 GHS regulation. SDS’s in this phase, may still be called ‘Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s)’, and labels may still show the characteristic WHMIS 1988 hatched border and circular symbols. Phase 1 comes to an end on May 31, 2017, after which, Manufacturers and Importers must comply fully with the WHMIS 2015 regulation. SDS’s and labels then after that date, which are produced by Manufacturers and Importers, must display GHS information.

In its second transition phase, which begins on June 1, 2017, Distributors may still comply with either the existing WHMIS 1988 regulation, or the new WHMIS 2015 GHS regulation. Employers now will also comply with either regulation. Phase 2 comes to an end on May 31, 2018, after which, Distributors must comply fully with the WHMIS 2015 regulation. Any SDS’s and labels in a distribution warehouse, then, after that date, must display GHS information.

In its third and final transition phase, which begins on June 1, 2018, Employers may still comply with either the existing WHMIS 1988 regulation, or the new WHMIS 2015 GHS regulation. Phase 3 comes to an end on November 30, 2018, after which, Employers must comply fully with the WHMIS 2015 regulation. With this third and final phase, individual Provinces may slightly extend certain aspects of employer WHMIS 1988 requirements, so the rules in place for each individual Province must be reviewed. For example, the Province of Ontario, will allow Federally-regulated Employers to use WHMIS 1988 for products already present in the workplace on December 1, 2018, until May 31, 2019.


In Mexico, GHS was adopted even before it was adopted in the United States into OSHA regulations. In June of 2011, Mexico’s Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare published a new Mexican standard, NMX-R-019-SCFI-2011. The standard adopted all building blocks of the UN’s Purple Book, revision 3, including all Environmentally Hazardous categories. The standard, however, was completely optional. Mexico presented the new standard as an ‘alternative’ to its existing standard, NOM-018-STPS-2000.

Then, fairly recently, in October of 2015, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare announced the adoption of a new GHS standard, which will eventually become mandatory. This is Mexican standard NOM-018-STPS-2015. This newer GHS standard adopted all building blocks of the UN’s Purple Book, revision 5, again, including all Environmentally Hazardous categories.

Similarly to Canada, Mexico is now also in a transition phase. Employers in Mexico may comply with the existing standard, NOM-018-STPS-2000, or standard NOM-018-STPS-2014 (this was a ‘proposed’ NOM that was officially adopted as NOM-018-STPS-2015), until October 8, 2018. SDS’s and labels then after that date, must display GHS information.

North America and Europe Reminders

Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Europe, will not be completely transitioned to GHS, across the board, until November 30, 2018, when Canada’s final transition phase for employers come to an end. In the meantime, keep in mind these differing transition and completion dates. And as always, remember that each country or region may throw in side-bar country specific requirements that veer away from the UN’s Purple Book. Review each regulation fully, and individually.

For further information and updates on European and North American regulations, please consult the following website links:


United States:


Diario Oficial de la Federación

If you have any questions regarding the GHS, please contact ICC Compliance Center Inc at 1-888-442-9628 (USA) or 1-888-977-4834 (Canada).

OSHA Update
What is the Significance of June 1st?

What significance does June 1st have in the world of hazardous materials?

Hopefully this does not come as a surprise, but it is the deadline for the final implementation date for Hazcom 2012.

Effective Completion Date Requirements Who
December 1, 2013 Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format. Employers
June 1, 2015 or December 1,2015 Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule, except:The Distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a HCS Compliant label Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers
June 1, 2016 Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. Employers

In March 2012, OSHA aligned the HCS (Hazard Communication Standard) with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This kicked off a four-year phase-in period which is now officially over.

By now, all chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers in the USA should have switched from OSHA 1994 to Hazcom 2012. This includes training all employees, classifying all products to the Hazcom 2012 criteria, creating Hazcom 2012 Safety Data Sheets (SDS), creating compliant shipped container labels, and finally updating workplace labeling and written safety programs to Hazcom 2012 standards.

Our handy checklist can help ensure that you have completed each important step. Use it as part of your internal auditing practice to ensure compliance.

If you still need help complying with the updated standard, give us a call. We can assist with consulting and training, safety data sheet and label development, and finally providing printing services to ensure those shipped container labels and workplace labels are in place.

OSHA Flammable
“Light My Fire” – Calculating Flash Points for Flammable Liquids

One of the most common tests for determining hazard classification is the flash point. This humble piece of physical information is defined in various ways in various regulations, but generally is the lowest temperature at which the vapours from a flammable liquid will ignite near the surface of the liquid, or in a test vessel. This can be critical for safety, because this temperature will be the lowest possible for the liquid to cause a flash fire if released or spilled. If the material can be handled and transported at temperatures lower than the flash point, the fire risk will be much smaller.

The flash point has become the standard test for classifying flammable liquids. It’s used by the U.S. OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Act) and HMR (Hazardous Materials Regulations) classification systems, as well as Canada’s WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and TDG (Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations).

Obtaining a flash point on a new product is usually easy enough. Many laboratories, particularly those that deal with petrochemicals, can perform the test for a reasonable charge. If your company has too many products to make outsourcing practicable, a flash point tester itself is comparatively low cost (as scientific apparatus goes), and a trained person can obtain data quickly and efficiently. However, both of these options do cost money. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to avoid the expense?

For example, toxic materials are usually classified by a test called the LD50 (the lethal dose to 50% of test subjects). This is a more expensive, complicated test, but there’s one beautiful feature for mixtures. You don’t have to do the test if you can calculate it. This calculation basically prorates the LD50s of the ingredients based on their concentrations. While there is debate about how accurate this system is, it’s directly mentioned in the above regulations as an option if testing of the actual product has not been done.

Unfortunately, the same regulations do not directly provide us with a method for calculating a flash point. But OSHA and WHMIS are based on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling, and TDG and the HMR are based on the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Both of these documents do include a reference to calculating flash points if directly measured ones are not available.

That’s the good news. The bad news starts when we discover that both the Globally Harmonized System and the UN Recommendations don’t give the specific formula for the calculation. The GHS reference can be found in sub-section, while the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Manual of Tests and Criteria places the reference to a calculation in Appendix 6, paragraph 4. At least both of them refer to the same method, one reported by Gmehling and Rasmussen in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Fundamentals 21, 86, (1982) titled “Flash points of flammable liquid mixtures using UNIFAC”.

When we look up this article, we encounter another road block – like many scientific journals, this one is not free, and the article is behind a paywall. We have a choice; either pay up to read the full article, or see if the formula appears somewhere else.

Oh, and it helps if we know what UNIFAC is. Apparently the acronym stands for “UNIQUAC Functional-group Activity Coefficients” (making it an acronym containing an acronym), and is “a semi-empirical system for the prediction of non-electrolyte activity in non-ideal mixtures.”

A little more digging on the internet comes up with an article summarizing how to calculate various flammability measurements, published by M. Hristova and S. Tchaoushev in the Journal of the University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy, 41, 3, 2006, 291-296, titled “Calculation of Flash Points and Flammability Limits of Substances and Mixtures.” This can be accessed, with no paywall, at .

So, we finally have our method to calculate our flash points. Except it’s nothing like the relatively simple method for calculating LD50s. Hristova and Tschaoushev tell us the calculation will take four steps:

  1. Determine the flash point which satisfies an equation relating “the actual partial pressure of component i in a vapor-air mixture” with “the partial pressure in a gas-air mixture with a composition corresponding to the LFL (lower flammable limit) of pure component i”.
  2. Determine the flammability limits at the temperature under study using the Zebatekis equation. (This equation is helpfully included.)
  3. Determine the partial pressure of each component, using the Antoine equation, and
  4. Determine the activity coefficients using the UNIFAC method.

Easy, right?

At this point, it becomes obvious that these calculations are currently of use, perhaps, to physical chemists, but are not yet a workable solution for companies simply trying to determine if their product is in Packing Group II or III. It turns out that the molecular forces in flammable liquids are far too complex to reduce to a simple equation such as can be used for toxic mixtures. Even computer systems that model these mixtures must be taken as provisional, and certainly not nearly as reliable as measured data.

So, the day when we can toss aside our flash point testers and classify flammable liquids based only on the composition is yet to come. To comply with the classification rules for workplace safety or transportation, a measured flash point is still the simplest and most accurate solution.

Do you have any questions about classifying hazardous materials? Contact ICC Compliance Center here at 888-442-9628 (U.S.) or 888-977-4834 (Canada), and ask for one of our regulatory specialists.

December 1, 2015 – HazCom 2012 Effective Completion Date

December 1, 2015 is an important date. You should know why by now!

Dates are important to everyone – especially during holidays when people take time off, relax, and enjoy company. December 1, 2015 is definitely an important date – to those in the hazardous materials industry – but, there won’t be any time off, relaxation, or holiday to celebrate. Rather, today is the effective completion date for compliance with all modified provisions of the Hazcom 2012 final rule: distributors shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a Hazcom 2012 label.

Sounds simple enough, right? Just put a Hazcom 2012 label on containers and you’re done. On the surface it sounds simple; however, it is anything but that. This affects chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers. If labeling is not part of the normal procedures then making sure the proper Hazcom 2012 label is used can be a daunting task.

Chemical distributors who package product (i.e., drums, totes) will need safety data sheets (SDSs) and labels updated. Otherwise, they cannot ship product as of December 1, 2015. Chemical distributors who distribute only (i.e., warehouse chemicals and distribute in the containers they came in) will need to find a way to re-label product before shipping or risk penalties if the labels are not updated. Industrial supply companies selling products such as cleaning agents, degreasers, solvents, or chemicals for industrial use will need to find a way to re-label product before shipping or risk facing citations if the labels are not updated. Re-labeling could mean opening up cases/skids of product, taking containers off, removing old labels, applying compliant GHS labels, and then packaging them up again – no small task.

There are ways that companies can get things in compliance.

Such things include:

  1. Ensuring proper label text appears on all product labels
  2. Designing artwork for new labels
  3. Ensuring SDSs are compliant to Hazcom 2012 requirements
  4. Producing labels in-house using software and printers
  5. Finding a label supplier to outsource label printing, or purchase printers and supplies
  6. Training employees, supervisors, and SDS authors to understand and apply the requirements of Hazcom 2012
  7. Referencing regulatory publications related to Hazcom 2012

Don’t be scared of this important date. There’s a lot of work involved in getting a simple label onto product containers, but in the end, the thing to celebrate is being in compliance with Hazcom 2012 and avoiding penalties. Get in touch with ICC Compliance Center at 888.442.9628 in the US, or 888.977.4834 in Canada to find out how we can help you with all your Hazcom 2012 compliance needs and more.

OSHA HazCom 2012
OSHA HazCom 2012 – One Month after the Deadline: What’s Different?

Where’s the Beef?

A better question to ask than the one posed in the title is “Where’s the beef?” Many will remember this 1980’s catchphrase uttered by Clara Peller in an advertisement for the fast food chain Wendy’s. The purpose of this advertisement was to differentiate between the big name sandwiches provided by McDonald’s and Burger King and Wendy’s own Single. The difference was in the size of the bun used by the competitors and the large beef patty used at Wendy’s. (Click here for the Wendy’s Commercial)

For those in the hazard communication industry, the question applies because of the June 1st deadline. This deadline was for all safety data sheets (SDS) and labels to be updated under the new OSHA HazCom2012 format. It is now after July 1st and many downstream users are asking “Where are the updated SDS and labels” much like in the Wendy’s commercial. Granted some companies made the deadline and are supplying the new versions of the documents. Unfortunately, there are a great many that have not.

So, are things really different?

Many on the business side of manufacturers, importers and distributors, the answer will likely be, “not much”. The business is still manufacturing product, importing goods and distributing items. That process has not truly changed. From a Regulatory or Compliance point of view the answer to that is “yes”. If your company has not completed the reclassifications of your products, then you are probably out of compliance. If the reclassifications are complete but the SDS and labels do not reflect this, then you are probably out of compliance. The words “out of compliance” are bad words, very bad words.

The word “probably” is used above because OSHA provided a memorandum on Enforcement Guidance on February 9th to help people meet the June 1 deadline. It basically allows for companies to “make a case” for why all of the items required by the June 1st deadline are not complete. For information on it, please see one of my previous blogs (Enforcement of HSC 2012). On May 29th a follow-up Interim Enforcement Guidance was published. This memorandum gives some further clarification to the February 9th document. To see this updated memorandum, please see: OSHA’s HCS Guide.

Despite the passing of June 1st, many in the industry are still waiting for the updated SDS and labels. For many, things are still in process and haven’t truly changed. We will all continue to ask “Where’s the beef?” until the next two OSHA deadlines pass. Perhaps by December 1, 2015 and definitely by June 1, 2016 we will finally know where to find the “beef”.

OSHA Labeling
It’s What’s Inside that Counts — OSHA Labeling of Shipped Containers

Sometimes, regulations don’t give us all the answers we need. For example, many people are confused about the labelling requirements found in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) of Part 1910.1200 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). This section tells us that we must label all “shipped containers” that contain hazardous substances destined for workplace use. But what exactly is the “shipped container,” when you have inner containers inside an outer one?

The simplest form of “shipped container” is a single packaging. This is a packaging such as a drum or bag, with no inner containers. Such a packaging must be labeled according to the HCS, if the product is hazardous and is intended for a U.S. workplace. If the product is also regulated as a hazardous material for transport according to the Department of Transportation (DOT), then we must also display DOT labels and marks as required by 49 CFR.
Continue reading “It’s What’s Inside that Counts — OSHA Labeling of Shipped Containers”

“Oh, How We Could Harmonize” — OSHA HazCom 2012 & WHMIS 2015

The Gang that Sang in this case is US OSHA/Health Canada; and it’s hazardous communications, not “Heart of my Heart” (despite my fondness of the former!), that they’ve been “singing” about.

In any case, despite the efforts there are still some differences between the two countries. Health Canada, following the coming into force of the Hazardous Products Act/Regulations (“HPR- WHMIS 2015”) in February, has thoughtfully produced a summary table of variances between Canada’s WHMIS 2015 and US OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (“HazCom” or HCS2012”).

The obvious English-French bilingual requirement is first on the list. One aspect of this that is not highlighted is the requirement to provide BOTH languages on the SDS (either as a bilingual document- or with the 2 versions attached as a single document) when selling to a Canadian customer.
Continue reading ““Oh, How We Could Harmonize” — OSHA HazCom 2012 & WHMIS 2015”

GHS Pictogram Exclamation
The Challenge of Two-Color Pictograms

Two-Colors are Required

One of the challenges that chemicals companies face due to the implementation of Hazcom 2012 is how to print the red border on their supplier/container labels.

Part 1910.1200 C.2.3 says:

C.2.3.1 Pictograms shall be in the shape of a square set at a point and shall include a black hazard symbol on a white background with a red frame sufficiently wide to be clearly visible. A square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol is not a pictogram and is not permitted on the label.

The newly released WHMIS 2015 regulations adopted the same requirement.

Continue reading “The Challenge of Two-Color Pictograms”

GHS Revision 6 is Coming!


David Bowie’s 1971 album “Hunky Dory” included the song “Changes” which was released in January 1972. While being recognized as one of Bowie’s most well-known songs, it never made it in into the “Top 40”. One of the lyrics from that song is

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes / (Turn and face the strain) Ch-ch-Changes”.

Those lyrics are most appropriate given the release of the UN ECE Secretariat’s publication of the changes to the 5th Revised edition, which will lead to the creation of Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Sixth Revised Edition.
Continue reading “GHS Revision 6 is Coming!”

Fewer Than 100 Days – HazCom 2012 Effective Date

Time Flies …

There are fewer than 100 days left until the big June 1 deadline. Will you be ready?

It is hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since OSHA announced the integration of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS) into their hazard communication regulations 29 CFR 1900.1200. Since then, many countries have also published their regulations, including Canada, with their recent announcement about WHMIS 2015.

I hope the June 1 deadline for safety data sheet and label conversion is not news to you. Most companies should have their documents and labels in progress, if you don’t, better get started! You have a lot of work ahead of you.
Continue reading “Fewer Than 100 Days – HazCom 2012 Effective Date”