Globally harmonized system of classification and labelling of chemicals

A problem faced by the chemicals manufacturers and distributors selling products around the world is the inconsistency between different regional and national systems for chemical classification – a substance that is classed as toxic in one part of the world may not be considered toxic in another. The aim of GHS is to tackle this problem by standardising classification and communication.

GHS aims to improve the health and safety of workers, consumers and the environment by ensuring that information on the hazards of chemicals is consistent around the world.

Many manufacturers struggle with several different systems of classification depending on the countries they manufacture in and export to. GHS aims to reduce this regulatory burden.

Work on GHS has been ongoing since the 1992 'Earth Summit' Conference in Rio de Janeiro. The first version of GHS, sometimes known as 'the purple book', was published in 2002 and updated in 2005 and 2007. A fourth edition was released in 2010.

You can find out more about GHS and how the system works on the official UNECE website.

CLP Regulation classification and labelling information also needs to be shown on safety data sheets (SDS). Therefore, when labels are updated to meet the requirements of the CLP Regulation, the SDS will also need to be updated.

Further guidance on how to comply with the provisions of the CLP Regulation is available on the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) website. NCEC’s consultants have extensive experience of the CLP Regulation and have used this to help many clients become and remain compliant.

Many countries outside the EU are active in implementing GHS into their regulations. For example, the USA has recently issued a revision to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) that includes the GHS systems for classification and labelling. Other countries, such as China and New Zealand, have already completed this process and have fully phased-in regulations using the GHS guidelines.