Globally Harmonized System of Classification (GHS)


The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is a set of guidelines to ensure safe handling, transport, use, and disposal of hazardous materials. It was developed by the United Nations as an international attempt to create a uniform system that other countries can use for a universal labeling system.

The United Stated adopted the GHS in March of 2012 and over 65 other countries have also adopted. Although the Global Harmonization System is not a law or a regulation, it is a system of recommendations. A country who adopts GHS can integrate parts of this system and improve their current regulations.

What Does GHS Do?

GHS label

There are three aspects GHS considers in their system;

  1. Defining hazards to health, and the physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals
  2. Classifying a process that has analytical data on chemicals for a comparison with the chemicals defined in a product
  3. Communicating hazard information in a uniform way on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

What Agencies Adopted GHS?

  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

What Are the 9 Physical Hazards?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) utilizes similar placards to the 9 GHS guidelines.

  1. Explosives
    • Assigned to one of 6 subcategories
  2. Gases
    • 2.1 Flammable, 2.2 Nonflammable, or 2.3 Toxic
  3. Flammable Liquid
  4. Flammable SolidDOT PLACARD
    • 4.1 Flammable Solid, 4.2 Spontaneously Combustible, 4.3 Dangerous When Wet
  5.  Oxidizers
    • 5.1 Oxidizer or 5.2,
      Organic peroxide
  6.  Toxic
    • 6.1 Toxic, Poison, Inhalation Hazard, PG II
  7. Radioactive
  8. Corrosive
  9. Miscellaneous


Over 40 million workers have already been affected by the globally harmonized system. and 5 million industries have also been affected in creating a safe work environment for their employees. OSHA has combined standards and recreated their Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to apply the recommendations GHS suggests. In doing so OSHA believes that these revisions will prevent 43 deaths and over 500 work related injuries.