GHS labels: What you need to know

GHS chemical labels

Hazard communication is often essential to workplace safety, an GHS labels are a cornerstone of HazCom. Originally introduced and developed by the United Nations in 1992, the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals has been required by OSHA since 2012. In this post we look examine each component of a compliant label and how to ensure your facility is aligned with the GHS standard.

What’s on a GHS label?

No matter the chemical you are labeling, a GHS label is comprised of four elements: a harmonized signal word, a GHS pictogram(s), a hazard statement, and a precautionary statement. GHS labels also include a product identifier (the name of the chemical) and supplier identification which is the name, address, and telephone number of the manufacturer.

  • Signal word: This word will be capitalized and is often not required on lower level hazard categories. For chemicals with a more severe hazard however, “Danger” and “Warning” are the signal words to use. The word is placed near the top of the label and easy to see and there should only be one signal word per label.
  • GHS hazard statement: These are standard phrases that correspond with a designated code specific to hazards broken up into the following three categories: physical hazards, health hazards, and environmental hazards. Some examples of these statements include “H221: Flammable Gas,” “H400: Very Toxic to Aquatic Life,” “H316: Causes Mild Skin Irritation.” Chemicals should be labeled with the appropriate amount of statements that accurately describe the hazards the material may pose.
  • GHS Pictogram(s): Part of the design of a GHS label is a set of diamonds with a pictogram. Labels can have one, two, three, four, or even five diamond designs to accurately convey the hazards present with the chemical. The following are nine approved pictograms to be used on a GHS label: Health Hazard pictogram, a Flame, an Exclamation Mark, a Gas Cylinder, Corrosion, an Exploding Bomb, a Flame Over Circle, an Environment pictogram, and Skull & Crossbones. OSHA has outlined the pictograms on their website. Each pictogram is comprised of an approved symbol on a white background
  • Precautionary Statement: One of the most crucial components for keeping workers safe is the precautionary statement. This statement will provide the readers with the steps that need to be taken in the event of exposure or give steps that can be taken to minimize exposure to the hazardous substance. Similar to hazard statements, precautionary statements will also have a code associated with them. Examples include “Code P210: Keep away from heat/sparks/open flames/hot surfaces,” and “Code P311: Call Poison Center or Doctor/Physician.”

In the above example of Hydrogen Peroxide, the signal word is DANGER and the corresponding hazard symbols are the exclamation point, the flame, and the corrosion symbols.

The hazard statement reads “may intensify fire, oxidizer,” and the rest of the paragraphs is considered the precautionary statement.

It is important for both OSHA inspections and the safety of workers to comply with the GHS standards. Doing so will keep employees informed and your facility compliant with industry and worldwide standards. Using LabelTac printers in conjunction with blank GHS supply will also give you the option to design and produce professional-grade labels easily.

Additional Resources