Demystifying GHS Labels: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Implementing Globally Harmonized System Regulations

Did you know that noncompliance with OSHA standards for GHS labels can go well past $12,000 in fines? This is something that a lot of companies don’t realize because the price of a fine wasn’t this steep a few years ago. The organization has implemented an increase of fines by more than 70%, and it’s to give businesses an incentive to stay compliant.

This is also why chemical management software is in such high demand. It’s not only about following rules and regulations around chemicals. It’s about ensuring the continued safety of workers when handing them or transporting them from one place to another. 

By simplifying hazard classification, labeling elements, and safety data sheets, GHS regulations make it easier to share essential information for companies that are often exposed to chemical products.

Keep reading as we assess the fundamental principles of GHS regulations and break down its label components. You will also gain more practical insights into implementing these regulations in different workplaces. 

How to Implement System Regulations for GHS Labels In Your Workplace

Implementing system regulations for GHS labels involves a few essential steps to ensure compliance and safety. To do it effectively, you will want to start with different forms of identification and classification. This will give you the information you need to prepare OSHA-compliant labels.

The first step should be taking a comprehensive inventory of all chemicals used, stored, or produced in the workplace. Next, you will need to identify each chemical’s properties and hazards. This is done to classify them according to the GHS criteria based on OSHA regulations.

Classify each chemical based on its intrinsic properties. Also, ensure to assign appropriate hazard classes and categories. This step is crucial as it determines the hazard communication information that should be on the GHS label.

You will want to assign the appropriate GHS label pictogram as well.
GHS labels should include all relevant safety and identification information for each chemical. Developing GHS-compliant labels isn’t difficult if you have a standard template to use.

Labels should include the product identifier and a signal word. They should also include hazard pictograms and hazard statements. Precautionary statements and the supplier’s information should be listed as well.

What Not to Omit

After the labels are created, you don’t want to skip employee training and education. This is something that’s often done before the label is complete. Educating employees about the GHS system and labeling requirements helps to prevent safety issues.

It also helps to prevent misunderstandings about chemical storage and use. This type of training ensures all workers understand the different components of a label.

There should also be a reporting structure in place in case any mistakes are noticed by workers. This is another reason why manufacturer contact information is always included.

Overall, training should cover how to read and interpret GHS labels. Doing this enhances safety when handling chemicals.

Take Notice of the Benefits 

Keep in mind that the main benefit is OSHA compliance. You will be reducing safety incidents and limiting the change of hazard exposure. You can expect a few other benefits as well, such as:

  • Cost reduction
  • Simple compliance
  • Consistent hazard information

If you want to encourage the safer handling, transport, and storage of chemicals you use in your workplace, you need GHS labeling and smart software to manage the process.

How Does Chemical Management Software Streamline GHS Compliance?

First, you’ll want to consider the effects of human errors and how often they occur. Chemical management software helps to reduce those errors by streamlining compliance.

This is possible because it automates regulatory practices for your GHS labels. For anyone who uses chemicals in their workplace, these labels are used to increase the quality of safety. They’re also used to promote regulatory efficiency. 

This set of international guidelines is meant for classifying and labeling hazardous chemicals. They are also used for chemical documentation and to protect human health and the environment. Mainly, you have to realize how chemicals are often transported. Transport doesn’t only happen within certain countries.

Chemicals are transported overseas a lot of the time, and these labels need to be easily recognizable for safety reasons. Compliance is streamlined through automation when it comes to standardization.

Accurate Chemical Inventory

The software allows companies to create and maintain a comprehensive inventory. This is for both chemicals in use and that are imported. This includes detailed information about each chemical.

Safety information could include its composition and its different properties. This form of software streamlines accuracy by automating manual processes. This also directly affects the accuracy of GHS pictogram labels.

Keep in mind, that human error comes from manual processes. Eliminating that increases validity.

GHS Classification and Labeling

Management software can help assist in accurately classifying chemicals based on their GHS hazard categories. Some examples of different categories could be; flammable, toxic, corrosive, etc.

It also generates GHS-compliant labels with standardized GHS pictograms, verbiage, and precautionary statements. This ensures consistency and adherence to OSHA regulations. It also makes it easier to have templates that are pre-done and ready to use right out of the file.

Management of Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Chemical management software allows the centralized storage and management of safety data sheets. These sheets provide critical information about all hazards. They also include handling procedures and emergency response measures for each chemical used. 

This software can play a part in the organization of up-to-date SDSs as well. Management teams will find it useful for the inventory they have.

Additionally, the SDS for each item will be properly cataloged and accessible. This will make them more available to employees. It will also make them more readily available for audits and inspections as needed.

Regulatory Compliance Monitoring

The software tracks regulatory updates and changes to GHS requirements. Managers may also find it helpful that this software includes alert capabilities.

It can alert users to any classification modifications. This will also include any changes in labeling standards in real time.

This ensures that chemical information remains up-to-date. You’ll also want to realize how much weight a feature like this can hold. OSHA has increased its fines by at least 78%.

For businesses that still aren’t compliant with GHS, the fine won’t be $7,000 anymore. With the increase, a fine for noncompliance could surpass $12,000 as mentioned.

Inventory Control and Reporting

Chemical management software enables companies to track inventory quantity. Facilities can also track the location of hazardous chemicals within different areas. It ensures compliance with storage limitations, shelf life, and disposal requirements.

This won’t only reduce costs over time. It will also reduce inventory confusion and the case of over-ordering.

The software can also generate reports for regulatory agencies. This is something that can help companies prepare for internal audits. Initial submissions will become simpler as well.

Training and Education

The software often includes educational resources and training modules. This can be helpful in informing employees about GHS and safer handling practices. This enhances workplace safety and helps minimize the risk of accidents.

This is something that will vary on the platform you use, but is possible to have it at your disposal. Without these types of prompts, you run the risk of not complying with OSHA standards.

As we know, this could result in fines of thousands of dollars. However, this is avoidable with the right management system.

Integration with Other Systems

Some chemical management software can integrate with other enterprise systems. Some of these systems could be options like procurement, waste management, and environmental health and safety (EHS) platforms.

This type of seamless integration further streamlines compliance efforts by automating data exchange. It also helps to reduce manual data entry errors.

Risk Assessment and Better Incident Management

Many of these types of software aid in conducting risk assessments for chemicals and help identify potential hazards. In case of chemical incidents, the software assists in documenting and reporting them to relevant authorities as required by certain regulations based on the chemical being used.

The main thing to understand is that this type of software helps to simplify GHS compliance by providing accurate chemical information. It also ensures proper labeling and documentation and streamlines reporting.

It can even help with regulatory monitoring in real-time. This proactive approach helps businesses maintain a safe work environment.

The concept is to minimize liabilities and adhere to international chemical safety standards without compromising the integrity of how you comply with OSHA standards. 

What Would GHS Compliance Look Like?

A GHS-compliant label will include six specific sections that will make it accurate according to OSHA standards. These sections will include;

  • The Product Identifier
  • Signal word
  • Hazard statements
  • Precautionary statements
  • Pictogram
  • Supplier information

Additionally, there will be a name, address, and telephone number before the product identifier in a lot of cases. Following a standard format for hazcom labels helps to remove all guesswork from the process.

The signal word indicates the hazard level, and there are a variety of different hazard levels. This could include reactive, corrosives, asphyxiants, or teratogens.

In general, different workplaces will have two types of chemical hazards; health and physicochemical hazards. There are also different categories of health hazards; 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 3, etc.

Without GHS labels, employees wouldn’t be aware of what they’re exposed to. For example, if there is a skull and crossbones pictogram, this falls into categories 1, 2, and 3.

The hazard class that aligns with this pictogram also means acute toxicity and inhalation. This is what workers would be exposed to, and they need to be aware of that.

If there is a health hazard pictogram, this would signify a hazard class for sensitization and respiratory hazards. The categories this would fall within are 1, 1A, and 1B. 

Understanding What the Other Label Sections Mean

The manufacturer information that you will find on the label will include their basic contact information. This is required in case a company needs to reach the manufacturers for safety concerns. This also has to be required for legal purposes on the manufacturer’s end.

Hazard statements are focused on the hazards the chemical presents. Precautionary statements are just as they sound. They will consist of important first-aid information and what you need to know to be proactive around harsh chemicals.

The product identifier is simply the name of the product. The pictogram is also called the GHS symbol and this is a visual identifier of the hazards the chemical presents.

Understanding the GHS Labeling Process

The GHS labeling process is the standard method for labeling and communicating the hazards of chemicals in the workplace. It was developed by the United Nations in 2003 better to ensure a consistent and uniform approach to chemical classification.

This includes labeling and safety data sheets for all chemicals on a global scale as well. The main goal of GHS is to enhance the protection of human health.

It’s also meant to streamline the health of the environment. This is possible by providing more clear and easy-to-understand information about chemical hazards.

Chemical management software can help to simplify the GHS labeling process. This is done through automated methods.

One thing to consider is automated classification. This might be one of the most popular features of software like this.

It can often classify chemicals based on their composition, properties, and use…all automatically. This reduces the manual effort required for hazard classification, and because there is no manual work needed, the chance of errors such as mistypes or misinformation is reduced.

Other Advantages to Consider

Additionally, there is the benefit of centralized data. Management software allows users to store and access chemical data in a centralized database. This can come in handy for long-term recall and storage of information as you need it. 

This also ensures consistency and accuracy in the labeling process. As changes are made, or label information is made by the manufacturer, centralized data also means less of a chance of having gaps in compliance.

As part of the labeling process, streamlining management can also offer;

  • Template-Based Labeling: provides pre-built templates for GHS labels

This makes it easy for users to generate compliant labels more quickly and without having to change anything unless needed.

  • Real-Time Updates; ability to keep track of changes in regulations and update hazard information

This type of feature plays into staying up-to-date with new industry changes or manufacturer changes. Additionally, workplaces can take advantage of benefits like multi-language support. For multinational companies, management software can often support multiple languages. 

This makes it easier to create labels for different regions and comply with local requirements. Something like this will come in handy for companies that have an international presence.

We’re also already aware of safety data sheet (SDS) management. Certain software solutions can often handle SDS creation as well. 

What’s even better is that all management and distribution can also be handled in one place. Overall, the right management software will streamline the entire labeling process.

GHS Labels for Primary and Secondary Containers

A primary container is mainly used for the transport and storage process of chemicals. Secondary containers are for the actual workplace. Secondary containers are often going to be smaller than the primary containers.

They will be in the form of spray bottles, jars, or jugs and are used for certain tasks on worksites. The chemicals in the secondary containers are transferred from the primary containers. The containers are often much larger. 

In the U.S., labels for secondary containers are needed at certain times. This would be whenever operations in a workplace involve chemicals being transferred from their original container.

An example would be transferring smaller amounts of a chemical into a bottle or a beaker. The labels will comply with 1910.1200(f)(6) with OSHA.
The labels for both containers are similar. You will still need to include the same information on them because of this.

This will involve all information from the identifier to the pictogram. However, supplemental information can be added to the labels as needed.

How Are GHS Pictograms Supposed to Be Used?

For any substances that present a health hazard over time, a GHS pictogram should be used. For example, carcinogens cause cancer, and something like this would need to be displayed. Its main purpose is to serve as an alert to those who will be handling or transporting the substance in any way.

There are nine pictograms that GHS has to represent different hazards. They include health, physical, and environmental hazards that could be caused by chemicals. While there are nine different pictograms, there are technically two sets of them.

One set is used specifically for labeling the containers that house the chemicals. The other set is specifically used during the transport of the chemicals. Both sets use the same symbols to represent the same hazard.

The only differences are the size of the pictograms and the information on them. For example, during transport, labels will often come in more color varieties. Some of them may also include more information than a general storage container would.

That additional information you may notice in transport could be something like a subcategory number. This won’t often be found in a container that isn’t actively being transported.

Be Mindful of Additional Requirements

You should be aware that not all symbols are required on a transport pictogram. For other pictograms, you will often just see the symbol itself. As an example, for a health hazard, you may see a red-outlined diamond with an outline of a person within the shape.

There will be something signifying distress within the outline of the person to represent the potential for a health hazard. The hazard code for this type of threat is GHS08 which may also be displayed. This is all that would be displayed on these types of pictograms.

There could also be multiple use cases for this type of pictogram. For anything that could cause specific organ toxicity, this label would be used.

If a chemical presents a type of germ cell mutagenicity, this label would also be used. Regardless of the category of mutagenicity it presents, this label would still be appropriate to use.

Understanding the Purpose of Chemical Management Software

The main concept behind chemical management software is to have a central point of management for your operations. While this gives you a way to keep track of substance inventory, it also gives you a place to create, distribute, and keep track of the GHS labels you need.

Overall, it’s meant to ensure that all information regarding toxicity levels and hazards presented by chemicals is available to workers. This type of software is meant to optimize channels of safety. This includes the transport and handling of certain chemicals.

It’s an all-in-one suite of useful tools that will help with multiple chemical safety management functions. This could include enhancing your workflows and productivity, improving safety tracking, and reducing incidents. Chemical management software also helps to streamline incident reporting and safety training in a lot of cases.

With this technology, you can enhance safety in a few ways. Some of the most popular use cases are monitoring chemical usage levels and managing expiration dates.

Monitoring these two things alone can help to reduce disposal costs and reduce waste as well. Overall, management software is going to improve efficiency and ensure GHS safety compliance.

Where Companies Go Wrong With GHS Chemical Labels

Multiple mistakes are often made with GHS chemical labels. Many of them will land you in a bit of trouble if you don’t catch them early. The most common mistake is not printing out your labels in red.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s never acceptable to print GHS labels in only black ink. Also, as a requirement, red must be included. Keep in mind that GHS pictograms are meant to act as an alert. Red is the appropriate color for this reason.

So, for your pictograms, make it standard practice to have the diamond that houses the warning symbol in red. Another common mistake is having statements on your labels that aren’t closed-ended. Open-ended statements are not allowed, and this is a primary reason to have good chemical management software.

If you have open-ended statements, you run the risk of being fined for noncompliance. A third common area where mistakes are made is with the printing aspect of the label. Pay close attention to the quality of the label itself.

Specifically speaking, there can be no smearing or smudging on the labels. What this is saying is that nothing can be hard to read or recognize.

This has a lot to do with your printing capabilities. However, you should be able to adjust the printer and color settings as needed.

Develop a quality assurance point throughout your workflow as well. This will help to ensure your labels remain high quality.

Being Proactive Is More Cost and Time Efficient

Chemical management software ensures compliance. It gives facilities an easy way to keep up with their workflows, inventory, and safety regulations. One thing that the facility manages to notice is how costly a simple mistake can be.

If you’re in violation of GHS label compliance, that won’t be the money you get back after paying the fine. It’s an easier option to have management software that does the heavy lifting for you.

To simplify and safeguard your GHS compliance, get in touch with KHA today for transparent pricing and price matching