What is GHS? This is a question many Canadians have been asking in light of the GHS based WHMIS 2015 update. The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals serves to provide a unified system that protects workers on a global scale, allowing for a hazard communication system that is recognized universally. As chemicals continue to be traded, distributed, and handled worldwide, persons in developed and developing nations encounter chemicals daily – as such the dangers of handling chemicals becomes a reality for them. The United Nations recognized the importance of educating people on the use of hazardous chemicals, with great consideration given to countries lacking the proper infrastructure needed to adequately educate the working population.




What is GHS’s Overall Global Objective?



    1. To implement a common labelling system with consolidated hazard communication requirements.


    1. To simplify import/export procedures by eliminating the need for retesting and reclassification so that costs are reduced for businesses and consumers.



The first edition of the GHS was published in 2003, with updates and revisions being released on a 2-year basis; the 6th revised edition being the most recent. The implementation of GHS worldwide has allowed for the provision of accurate and consistent information: to identify and understand chemicals and their hazards; prevent and protect people and the environment from hazards associated with these chemicals; and finally to govern and regulate chemical trade and transport within global communities.




What is GHS’s role in the trade of hazardous products between Canada and the United States? March 26, 2012 brought-forth the official adoption of GHS in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) extensive Hazard Communication Standards (HCS) program was modified to adhere to the GHS guidelines introduced by the United Nations, which has already been adopted by numerous countries internationally. Health Canada governed the reformation of Canada’s WHMIS system to meet the criterion set-out by the GHS (5th revised edition), and as such introduced the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) in place of WHMIS 1988’s Controlled Products Regulations (CPR) to enact these new amendments. To simplify the supply and trade of chemical products between Canada and USA, the HPR – WHMIS 2015 – aligns with OSHA’s HCS 2012 hazard classification and communication requirements – having only a a few minor differences (see WHMIS GHS vs HazCom GHS – What Makes Them Different? for more details). The hazard classification and communication requirements for hazardous products can now be fulfilled using a single combined label and combined SDS, as long as the regulations of each country are met – thus establishing greater cooperation between the two bodies as sought out by the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). To learn more about the elements of GHS and WHMIS, take a look at the Glossary Termspage.