Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

What is Globally Harmonized System?

Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is a coherent and common approach to classifying and defining hazards. Targeting many categories of people including consumers, enterprise, workers, emergency and transport workers. It gives the leads the way towards a unified infrastructure for a national and comprehensive establishment of chemical safety programs. Having the required information of the hazards chemicals labeled and classified helps to maintain the protection of all audiences starting from an ordinary worker to the very massive organization.

Definition of Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

GHS is an acronym of “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals”. It’s a system which classifies chemical products hazards. It gives safety and health information labels and also communicates them on data sheets (SDSs) in the GHS. It’s not a law or regulation but it’s just a system that most of countries comply with.

The Development of Globally Harmonized System (GHS):

Since lot of countries have different classification and labelling systems of chemical products, it was necessary to have a unified system that gathers all the countries under one big umbrella and that is why GHS was created in the first place. Before creating the GHS, governments used to regulate between one another to comply different systems which was very costly with the companies to operate with as well as being confusing.

The GHS was first created and developed by the United Nations in a way to gather all parties from all over the word into one single agreement all chemical regulations and products. To cut it short, it was a pretty good trial to bring all countries to one table. It was first adopted by the United States on March 26, 2012. Up till now, more than 65 countries have been enrolled in the GHS agreement. 

To create such agreement, the international Labor Organization (ILO) studied all the necessary objectives required to fulfil harmonization. The organization stated that there were four basic systems that need to be harmonized all together to achieve a massive approach to the world. This work could not be done by a single organization however this needs the cooperation of many parties to achieve the mission. ILO also recommended that GHS to be considered as a “major”.

Benefits of Globally Harmonized System (GHS):

GHS has lots of benefits on several levels. It can be seen useful for governments, companies, workers, and also the some members of the public. GHS is supposed to deliver many benefits and among them are:

1- Having this agreement should help making trade moves easier

2- It gave very accurate information about the hazard chemicals

3- It really helps the harmonization of chemicals and countries share a unified data base.

4- A very pleasing benefit for governments and business owners was the reduction of expenses.

5- A unique experience of moving chemicals around the world with minimum risks.

6- The old excessive need to test on animals and pets will be typically reduced to the least. 

GHS and The Hazardous Materials Classification:

It’s not required to apply testing for chemicals to classify them. However, it’s possible to identify the available scientific evidences to get to know the potential danger/hazards per chemical. Also to asses if these chemicals meets OSHA’s identification as a hazard chemicals or not. The classification process includes the below steps:

1. First you have to recognize the information regarding the possibility of having hazardous chemicals.

2. Revising the information of the chemicals more than once to make sure that the chemicals are entirely combined with the hazards.

3. Test your chemicals upon specific grounds including its health, physical and many other hazards if any.

4. Give each chemical it’s hazardous class and monitor it. This helps identifying the class.

5. Wherever available, decide the category of each hazard per each class for the chemical you’re giving classification to. 

Key Elements of Globally Harmonized System (GHS):

1. Classification of chemicals hazards according to the ways of GHS which gives guidance on how to classify genuine chemicals and its mixtures according to its rules and details.

2. the communications of chemical hazards information using the SDSs ( Safety Data Sheets) and their labels:

- Safety Data Sheets (SDS): the GHS sheets consists of 16 sections are set into order with least information listed.

- Labels: on the label, appears assured information of the hazard according to the GHS system. The chemical identification, for example, may be needed. Precautionary phrases will be also needed when labeling for the safety issues when asked by the regulatory authority in case the classification will be adopted. It also gets standard statements, symbols, and signal words that will appear on the label each per its classification. 

Qatar Benefit from Adopting the GHS:

Qatar, among all countries, can make use of the GHS classification for its good to enhance the health and environment protection which is gained from the consistency and clarity in information given to anyone who deals with hazard chemicals. And not to forget that GHS was made in the first place for us, humans, to simplify our lives when dealing with chemicals Also making it clear enough for anyone is seeing the signal words, hazard statements or even pictograms so he/she will know the meaning directly and no need to make any assumptions about these labels.

With the implementation of the GHS, Qatar will be able to reduce the barriers and obstacles to trade which will facilitate the compliance where there will be no need to act with the many hazards classification and the communication systems. The firms will have only to classify it once for all authorized agencies that use the GHS globally. Also it reduces the need of testing and evaluating for multiple classifications locally and globally. This could help facilitating to get a unified agreement with all countries.


Thanks to all people who participated in such agreement, the GHS. The development of the GHS has never been easy. It’s a very long, detailed and complicated process. And hopefully it will be taken into consideration by all the countries around the world to facilitate people’s life in a way that will be subjected to the benefits for protection and trade.

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
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