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GHS update

United Nations Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)

Aim: One chemical, one label - worldwide.

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All over the world there are different laws on how to identify the hazardous properties of chemicals (called ‘classification’) and how information about these hazards is then passed to users (through labels, and safety data sheets for workers).

This can be confusing because the same chemical can have different hazard descriptions in different countries. For example, a chemical could be labelled as ‘toxic’ in one country, but not in another.

The UN brought together experts from different countries to create the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

The aim of the GHS is to have, worldwide, the same:

  • criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health, environmental and physical hazards; and
  • hazard communication requirements for labelling and safety data sheets.

The UN GHS is not a formal treaty, but instead is a non-legally binding international agreement. Therefore countries (or trading blocks) must create local or national legislation to implement the GHS.

The fourth revised edition of the GHS manual is now available.  It contains various new or revised provisions concerning new hazard categories for chemically unstable gases and non-flammable aerosols; further rationalization of precautionary statements, and further clarification of some of the criteria to avoid differences in their interpretation.

The table below sets out the implementation phase of the GHS through the transport regulations for dangerous goods. 



Within Europe the European Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures, commonly known as the CLP regulation, adopts the implementation of GHS. 

The attached sets out the new classification and labelling system according to the above:

CPL (1)              CPL (2)


Charts courtesy of UNECE website

Written 20th December 2011 by Yvonne McCarthy, S&H LLP Associate / Trainer

See also main Article on Hazardous Goods (July 2011)


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