“What does GHS stand for?” This popular question has been in the Canadian lime-light recently, given how phase 1 of the WHMIS 2015 transition has been underway as of February 2015. The literal translation of this popular acronym is ‘Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.’


What does GHS stand for globally? ‘Stand for’ in this context relates to how GHS is both implemented and represented on a nation-to-nation basis. On an international level, the GHS is a comprehensive system enforced by the United Nations to protect workers worldwide from the dangers associated with hazardous products. A consistent infrastructure for hazard classification and identification procedures, relies on the use of standardized– hazard symbols, labels, and SDSs, such that the hazardous product requirements of global communities vary only to a minimal extent. An important objective of the United Nations is to consolidate the trade and use of hazardous products world-wide, thus they highly encourage the many nations of the world to refine their labour laws to include GHS hazard communication standards.


What does GHS stand for, in context of WHMIS 2015? WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) is Canada’s federally executed worker safety protection program, set-up to educate and train employers and employees alike on the safe use and handling of hazardous products in the workplace. Canadians were likely unaware of GHS’s existence prior to WHMIS 2015’s phase 1 implementation. GHS is not explicitly contained in WHMIS 2015’s title but rather manifested and adopted in its legislations and regulations. The sole purpose of this update seeks to incorporate the regulations set out by the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals for alignment with other countries including Australia, Japan, The United States, China, New Zealand and many of the European Union members. The WHMIS 1988 to 2015 transitional, 3-phase, time-table, marks December 2018 as the date of phase 3 completion. By December 2018, GHS will be fully integrated into WHMIS legislature and no longer should there be any hazardous products containing old WHMIS 1988, labels and SDSs in Canadian workplaces.