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GHS Info

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)


What is the GHS?

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is a single internationally agreed system of chemical classification and hazard communication through labelling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The GHS is published by the United Nations and is sometimes referred to as ‘the purple book’. It includes harmonized criteria for the classification of:

  • Physical hazards,
  • Health hazards, and
  • Environmental hazards.

It is expected that the GHS will provide trade benefits to industry as well as improved health and safety outcomes through use of internationally consistent hazard communication elements.

What is Hazard Communication?

Hazard communication is a term used to describe how critical information about the hazards of chemicals and any precautions necessary to ensure safe storage, handling and disposal, are conveyed to users of chemicals.

In the GHS, hazards are communicated to chemical users through a combination of symbols as well as words, in the form of signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements. These are intended to appear on labels and in SDS.

Signal Words - Three Used “NONE” –“DANGER” – “WARNING”

The GHS uses ‘Danger’ and ‘Warning’ as signal words to indicate the relative level of severity of a hazard. ‘Danger’ is used for the more severe or a significant hazard, while ‘Warning’ is used for the less severe hazards.

Hazard Statements

Hazard statements are assigned to a class and category that describes the nature of the hazards of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard.

Precautionary Statements

Precautionary statements describe the recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure, or improper storage or handling of a hazardous chemical. The GHS categorizes precautionary statements according to whether they relate to prevention, response, storage and disposal.

It is a set of guidelines for ensuring the safe production, transport, handling, use and disposal of hazardous materials The GHS is not a global law or regulation– a common misconception – it is a system.

The most noticeable changes brought by GHS for most organizations will be changes to safety labels, safety data sheets, and chemical classification. As an example, the GHS refers to safety data sheets as SDSs, dropping the M from material safety data sheets (or MSDSs).

The GHS also standardizes the content and formatting of SDSs into 16 sections with a strict ordering. Labels also look quite different, with 6 standardized elements that include specific language depending upon chemical classification.

GHS is meant to be a logical and comprehensive approach to the Defining of health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals.

Adoption of GHS brings major changes:

  • Hazard classification
  • Labels
  • Safety Data Sheets
  • Training

The biggest costs to businesses will be to:

  • Re-classify all chemicals using GHS criteria
  • Re-author all Safety Data Sheets in GHS formats and produce GHS formatted labels
  • Train workers on how to read new labels, SDS elements, and newly identified hazards.



There are nine hazard pictograms in the GHS which represent the physical, health and environmental hazards:

NOTE: The GHS system also recognizes the equivalent pictograms that apply to Dangerous Goods under the ADG Code.

Example of Section 2 of a SDS sheet with GHS information

This section 2 example has pictograms of a dangerous product and GHS signal word—in this example signal word “DANGER”

Section 2 - Hazards Identification

Statement of Hazardous Nature
This product is classified as: Xn, Harmful. N, Dangerous to the environment. C, Corrosive. Hazardous according to the criteria of SWA. Dangerous according to the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) Code.
Risk Phrases: R22, R35, R52. Harmful if swallowed. Causes severe burns. Harmful to aquatic organisms.
Safety Phrases: S20, S23, S26, S28, S46, S61, S24/25, S36/37/39. When using, do not eat or drink. Do not breathe mists or spray. In case of contact with eyes, rinse immediately with plenty of water and contact a doctor or Poisons Information Centre. After contact with skin, wash immediately with plenty of water. If swallowed, contact a doctor or Poisons Information Centre immediately and show this MSDS or label. Avoid release to the environment. Refer to special instructions/Safety Data Sheets. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Wear suitable protective clothing, gloves and eye/face protection.
SUSMP Classification: S6
ADG Classification: Class 8: Corrosive Substances.

GHS Pictograms

GHS Signal word: DANGER

H290: Corrosive to metals.
H302: Harmful if swallowed.
H314: Causes severe skin burns and eye damage.
H402: Harmful to aquatic life.
P102: Keep out of reach of children.
P260: Do not breathe fumes, mists, vapours or spray.
P264: Wash contacted areas thoroughly after handling.
P270: Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product.
P280: Wear protective gloves, protective clothing and eye or face protection.
P310: Immediately call a POISON CENTRE or doctor/physician.
P330: Rinse mouth.
P363: Wash contaminated clothing before reuse.
P301+P312: IF SWALLOWED: Call a POISON CENTRE or doctor if you feel unwell.
P303+P361+P351: IF ON S

(Explanation of pictograms— explanation is not part of the SDS)

GHS Pictograms

Example of Section 2 of the SDS sheet with GHS information

This example does not have pictograms or signal word

Section 2 - Hazards Identification

Statement of Hazardous Nature
This product is classified as: Not classified as hazardous according to the criteria of SWA. Not a Dangerous Good according to the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) Code.
Risk Phrases: Not Hazardous - No criteria found.
Safety Phrases: S23, S36, S24/25. Do not breathe vapours or mists. Wear suitable protective clothing. Avoid contact with skin and eyes.
SUSMP Classification: None allocated.
ADG Classification: None allocated. Not a Dangerous Good under the ADG Code.
UN Number: None allocated

GHS Signal word: NONE. Not hazardous.

P102: Keep out of reach of children.
P353: Rinse skin or shower with water.
P301+P330+P331: IF SWALLOWED: Rinse mouth. Do NOT induce vomiting.
P332+P313: If skin irritation occurs: Get medical advice.
P337+P313: If eye irritation persists: Get medical advice.
P370+P378: Not combustible. Use extinguishing media suited to burning materials.
P402+P404: Store in a dry place. Store in a closed container.
P403+P235: Store in a well-ventilated place. Keep cool.
P501: Dispose of small quantities and empty containers by wrapping with paper and putting in garbage. For larger quantities, if recycling or reclaiming is not possible, use a commercial waste disposal service.

A product that may fit the SDS criteria of example one “oven cleaner”
A product that may fit the SDS criteria of example two “general purpose disinfectant deodorizer”

GHS pictograms symbols

GHS Pictograms


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