The Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), created by the United Nations, was designed to replace the diverse hazard classification systems around the world with one universal standard, which would improve knowledge of the dangers associated with hazardous chemicals.
The United States adopted the GHS in 2012 and OSHA’s adoption is a revision of their Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the GHS. GHS-compliance mandates are in full effect for higher education institutions. All organizations with chemicals must be compliant with the HCS 2012 Chemical Classification Guidelines.
'Hazard Communication' was the second most cited OSHA violation in 2017 - it's crucial that campus administration fully understand and implement these policies for handling and storing chemicals on campus to avoid federal fines.
"The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. "
Occupational Health and Safety Administration
The GHS uses Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) instead of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) - if your campus has not already begun this process, it should carefully begin capturing SDSs and populating them into a library. Any employee that handles chemicals on campus should have immediate access to this library.
SDSs follow a standardized format which provides important chemical and safety information. Any purchased chemical should have a SDS provided by the manufacturer.
Typically, a chemical SDS will provide essential information that outlines the dangers involved in handling, transporting, consuming, combining, storing, and disposing of the chemical.
Most importantly, the sheet will provide vital first aid information to first responders and physicians, along with emergency contact numbers.
All chemicals will have to follow a different labeling format than before. From this point forward, each chemical must have the appropriate pictograms displayed on it. Chemical labels will have six standardized elements that include specific language depending upon chemical classification.
Pictograms are small illustrations, specific to a hazard, enclosed in a red-bordered diamond.
As you begin to prioritize complying with the new OSHA guidelines, it's important to establish an employee training program on GHS guidelines. Employees are often the first line of defense in handling and storing chemicals - if a situation occurs where a chemical is mishandled, their immediate actions are crucial.
Institutions need to train employees on any newly discovered hazards listed on safety data sheets and/or labels. This training will make them aware of additional dangers and procedures to follow if contact with the chemical is made. Also, employees should have a solid understanding of the new GHS pictograms and be able to explain what each means.
Remember as you begin to adopt these new guidelines that you don't forget to train employees on both formats of chemical classification - MSDSs and SDSs. There will be a mix of both formats in your library as you begin populating it with SDSs - it's essential employees know how to utilize both in case of an emergency.
For more information, please check out OSHA's resources here.