Globally Harmonized System (GHS) – How ‘Harmonized’ is it really?

Posted Date: 
Thursday, October 24, 2013

By: Darren Dunn, Regulatory Consultant

GHS stands for the ‘Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals’ and is a U.N. initiative that serves to harmonize three main components of industrial chemical regulation.

The GHS regulations can be found in a document named the ‘Purple Book’ where it discusses the different types of classifications, signal words, hazard and precautionary statements, SDS format, and the 9 hazard pictograms (depicted below).

GHS ExplosiveGHS FlammableGHS CombustionGHS Gas pressureGHS CorrosiveGHS ToxicGHS Toxic, irritant, sensitizer, narcoticGHS Sensitizing, mutagenic, carcinogenic, toxic for reproductionGHS Environmentally

However, GHS uses a ‘building block approach’, where each jurisdiction involved can adopt certain regulations, and decide not to adopt others. For example, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazcom 2012 regulation decided not to adopt any environmental hazard groups put forward in the U.N GHS initiative. 

Furthermore, each jurisdiction is allowed to include non-GHS rules; which are not found in the Purple Book. These jurisdiction specific regulations must also be complied with. Examples of these include the State of California’s ‘Prop 65’, and the EU SDS Format 453/2010 regulation.  This means that the GHS IS NEITHER GLOBAL, NOR HARMONIZED. Just because an SDS is GHS compliant in one jurisdiction does not mean it will be compliant in another GHS jurisdiction.

If you are interested in learning more about GHS, feel free to e-mail Nexreg and tune into our free Webinar Series which covers many issues surrounding GHS. 






Faced with a tight customer deadline for one of our key growth products, DSC turned to Nexreg for converting our MSDS to an EU French language SDS. Within a very short time frame, Nexreg staff provided a competitive quote and turnaround time. With the technical support of highly professional and responsive Nexreg consultants we were able to provide our customer with a compliant SDS that supported their downstream manufacturing needs. Thank you Nexreg!
Mike Horvath, Ph.D., Digital Specialty Chemicals Ltd