The Globally Harmonized System (or GHS) is an international hazardous materials communication that provides classification criteria for all chemical hazards. Their goal is to label elements and create safety data sheets that are used across the globe equally to prevent workplace hazards. GHS has made changes again that require companies to train their employees on how to label and classify the chemicals used within their work environment.
It is GHS’s goal to standardize how chemical hazards are labeled and how employees are educated about them. This is done through effective labeling and accompanying material safety data sheets. As one of the leading causes for workplace injury, it is imperative that companies utilizing these hazardous materials educate their employees immediately on how to use the GHS system.
Why a GHS System?
The reason for these changes – as opposed to utilizing material safety data sheets (MSDS) – is because more companies are conducting business with overseas suppliers. These suppliers do not use the MSDS system; therefore, employees are unaware of what chemicals or potential hazards they are dealing with. The new GHS system will standardize how all companies – including foreign suppliers – label hazardous materials. This will ensure there is no confusion or on-the-job accidents related to improper labeling.
Companies Must Remain in Compliance
Employers will receive the new SDS or Safety Data Sheet information in December of 2013, but the information has already been released. OSHA requires all employers to train their employees on the new labels, which include hazardous statements, precautions, signal words and pictograms by December 2013. A company must have full compliance by then even though the rule doesn’t officially take place until January 2015. Companies are already starting to integrate the new GHS system and train their employees. In addition, companies must acquire the label makers needed to print these labels and ensure their hazardous chemicals on hand are in compliance with GHS.
Some of the major changes to the system include:
- The hazardous classifications – now classifications are divided into categories.
- The labels must use harmonized language.
- The safety data sheets will contain a 16-section format.
Acquiring Equipment and Training Materials
Organizations will have until December 2013 to train employees, but training must begin now. Most in-depth training programs take at least four weeks to implement and the time it takes to re-label a facility on-site can take even longer. Employers should look into an industrial supply label maker that allows them to print their own GHS-approved labels on-site. This will allow them to replace labels that are outdated. The label maker must use a variety of colors and styles so each hazardous chemical is labeled appropriately and to GHS standards.
There are a number of companies that offer a variety of label makers and supplies that help companies stay in compliance with GHS regulations. With the right labels and supplies, you can ensure your employees avoid on-the-job injuries due to hazardous materials and exposure to harsh chemicals. In addition, these products can be used during your transition period as a form of visual training aides.
About The Author
David Cormier is a blogger for a leading safety supply provider.