GHS in the Workplace

The new Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS) is now ready for worldwide implementation. Many countries have already adopted the GHS, while the USA and Canada are just beginning the task of harmonizing existing regulatory regimes within the GHS framework. Whereas the question on most people’s minds these days is “When will GHS be implemented?” concern should focus on how GHS will affect our commerce and safety in our workplaces. Target audiences for the GHS include consumers, workers, and emergency responders. GHS will benefit these folks. Though for the employer or Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Manager, once you’ve educated yourself in GHS principles, expect to spend much time sifting through the data needed to correctly categorize chemicals and their mixtures per the new GHS criteria. You should also expect to spend much money and time applying new GHS labels to chemical containers, reformat existing MSDSs to the sixteen sections Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and retrain workers how to interpret GHS hazard information. Do not expect a GHS shift to magically make your workplace safer, since GHS is not intended to harmonize risk assessment procedures or risk management. This gradual process of GHS assimilation should however eventually help in the decisions process.

The advantage of GHS is the way it identifies the intrinsic hazards found in chemical substances and mixtures and conveys this hazard information Continue Reading…


I was recently asked to give an overview of how MSDS’s are used in the workplace to some of my coworkers. Coming from a laboratory background, I often forget that many people do not know what an MSDS (or Material Safety Data Sheet) is and why they are important in the workplace. For those of you who may not be familiar with what an MSDS is or how and why it is a very important piece of safety equipment in the workplace, here are few highlights.

What is an MSDS?

An MSDS is a document that provides safety information for a product or material. MSDS’s are generally used in a workplace or emergency situation and contains information such as:

  • Hazards of the product
  • Safe use of the product
  • Symptoms of exposure to the product
  • First aid procedures
  • Emergency procedures

Who uses an MSDS?

  • Employees who need to know proper safety and handling information for a product or material they use occupationally in the workplace
  • Employers or employees who need to provide safety training and equipment
  • Employers or employees who need to determine proper storage for materials
  • Emergency response personnel; such as firefighters, first responders, EMT’s and ER personnel
  • MSDS’s are not intended to be used by consumers for household use of products!

How are MSDS’s formatted?

Currently, there is not one MSDS format that is recognized worldwide.

  • The US follows the OSHA requirements (no specific format is required, but the ANSI standard format may Continue Reading…