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Complete Guide to GHS Labels and Safety Data Sheets

By Pete Self

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Cleaning staff saw changes in the past as manufacturers of commercial cleaning products and chemicals transitioned into the global classification system for chemical hazard information. For cleaning staff in healthcare facilities, educational facilities, foodservice operations, and other industries and places of business, these changes were seen on cleaning product labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) that better illustrate chemical hazard use, precautions and protection. 

Standardizing with GHS 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in 1994 to help employees understand chemical hazards and appropriate measures of protection. Now, HCS has aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in an effort to standardize information about the proper handling and use of hazardous chemicals. 

HCS has aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in an effort to standardize information about the proper handling and use of hazardous chemicals.

The benefit to cleaning employees and global commerce is a new system that is straightforward, providing better clarity for workers on chemical hazards. Labeling and Safety Data Sheets are now consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer whether in the United States or overseas. Ultimately, this improves worker safety with common pictograms and standardized information on labels as well as uniform SDSs. 

Changes in Classification 

The revised HCS outlines specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards and classification of mixtures. Previously, chemical manufacturers and importers followed different classification systems, which led to the same substance from different vendors having variable hazard warnings on the labels. 

Now, hazard classification will have the same requirements, globally. 

New GHS Labels

Cleaning professionals began to see more and more of these new product labels in the workplace throughout 2014-2015. The modified labels include the following descriptions: 

  • Product identifier (the chemical identity of the substance) 

  • Pictograms (standardized symbols for hazards) 

  • Signal word (the word “warning” or “danger” will advise of the severity of the hazard) 

  • Hazard statements (to describe the nature of the hazardous product) 

  • Precautionary statements (to minimize or prevent adverse effects from exposure) 

  • Name, address and telephone number of the responsible party 

The pictograms will be especially helpful in depicting hazards as these visual symbols break language barriers and will be easily recognizable and understandable, globally. To view the pictograms and the meanings behind each symbol, along with other label information, check out more here

What are Safety Data Sheets? 

Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets) are filled with important information for employers and employees who handle, use and store cleaning products and chemicals.

Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets) are filled with important information for employers and employees who handle, use and store cleaning products and chemicals. The new Safety Data Sheets have 16 standard sections, including: 

  • Identification of the substance or mixture and supplier 

  • Hazards identification 

  • Composition/information on ingredients 

  • First aid measures 

  • Firefighting measures 

  • Accidental release measures 

  • Handling and storage 

  • Exposure controls/personal protections 

  • Physical and chemical properties 

  • Stability and reactivity 

  • Toxicological information 

  • Ecological information 

  • Disposal considerations 

  • Transport information 

  • Regulatory information 

  • Other information, including date of preparation or last revision 

The standardized sections will be identical from company to company to provide ease of use and to further improve the employer and worker’s ability to understand hazards and measures of protection. 

Employee Training 

Since the new labels and SDSs were rolled out, OSHA set a deadline for employers to train employees on the revised product labels and SDS format by Dec. 1, 2013. Employees from here on out need to understand the new elements of the labels, as well as where to access and how to read the new Safety Data Sheets. For more information on training and materials, employers can log on here 

What’s Next? 

Manufacturers of commercial cleaning products, like P&G Professional, are required to reclassify hazards and comply with the new format for product labels and Safety Data Sheets. The HCS phase-in date requires that all products shipped after June 1, 2015, be compliant. In line with that requirement, P&G Professional rolled out cleaning products with new labels and Safety Data Sheets well before the June 2015 deadline. 

Going Global 

The revised HCS allows for a global classification system that’s easier to understand, globally. Workers worldwide can look at the pictograms on the label and know what it means. Additionally, all the hazard information is in one spot on the label, making it simpler to find and review. Plus, SDSs have a new, consistent format to provide further information on chemicals and worker safety. 

OSHA estimates that the new standard will impact more than 5 million workplaces in the United States and affect more than 43 million workers. By aligning with GHS, the revised HCS benefits millions of workers with this standardized approach to chemical hazard information. 

About Pete Self

Pete Self is a Principal Engineer with P&G Professional. He has worked in Research & Development with Procter & Gamble for 34 years, including 14 years with P&G Professional. He holds a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech.

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