GHS Basics – What You Need to Know

In this Environmental Daily Advisor video, Kelly Lagana talks with Dave Galt about the new GHS (Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) standard. Dave Galt is legal editor for BLR’s safety compliance products.

KL: Hi everybody, I’m Kelly Lagana, I’m here with BLR’s Environmental Daily Advisor. Today we’re talking with Dave Galt. He’s our safety legal editor. He has a lot of experience with our training materials and we’re going to talk today about the new GHS Standard.

Dave has done a lot of great research for us, but before we get started, Dave could you talk to us about exactly what is GHS?

DG: Sure. GHS means Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. It’s a mouthful. GHS is really a set of guidelines to “harmonize” or standardize the way chemicals are classified, and to standardize the information that’s put on material safety data sheets and on chemical labels, so that those labels and sheets would be standard no matter what company you’re working at or where you are.

KL: In the world?

DG: Right, in the world. The way its set up right now in the United States, we have the Worker Right-to-Know Rule, or Hazard Communication Standard. And that rule sets minimum requirements for what has to be included in a material safety data sheet, for example. But a chemical manufacture can set up the safety data sheet any way they want.

If somebody is reading a material safety data sheet about the same chemical at one location, they may get a different format and different information than another material safety data sheet. Same problem with the labels. So we’re trying to standardize that and make it easier for anyone anywhere in the world to see the same information.

KL: So it’s going to be easier for the employees to read the MSDS. Is it going to be easier for employers as well?

DG: Right. Especially for chemical manufacturers who have to have different standards around the world for what they have to put on a material safety data sheet or on a chemical label. This will standardize it and make it easier on them too.

KL: I know that OSHA has been talking about the GHS Standard for years. When do you think this will be dropping? When will this be finalized?

DG: Well, I looked in the Federal Register this morning to see if it was in there, which means it’s expected out any day. The GHS guidelines will be added onto or amended onto OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard or Right-to-Know Rule.

Back in October, OSHA sent a final rule to the President’s Office of Management and Budget, or OMB. The way our system is set up in the this country is the regulatory agency has to send any new regulation they’re proposing to Office of Management and Budget for their review.

A few weeks ago at the end of February, Office of Management and Budget came out with a statement saying they have some changes they want OSHA to make to their final rule, which means the ball goes back to OSHA. OSHA now has to revise the final rule so that it meets whatever changes OMB wanted to make. OMB did not make their changes, what they wanted done public, so we have no idea how much work OSHA has to do before they can publish another rule. It could be tomorrow, could be next month, or later.

KL: And we’ll see those OMB changes when the rule gets finalized, right?

DG: Yes, we’ll have some idea what was required, but we won’t know that yet until the new rule is published by OSHA.

KL: Could you tell me who’s going to be affected by this GHS rule? What are these companies going to have to do differently when it becomes law?

DG: Sure. The “who” is basically about 5 million employers around the country: businesses, in some states public sector organizations like state and local governments in those states that have their own OSHA rules are going to have to comply.

There are really 2 groups of employers that have to comply with different requirements. The first is about 90,000 chemical manufacturers and importers. They’re going to have to make three changes in the way they classify chemicals, put information on material safety data sheets, and on labels. The other group are the 5 million or so companies that use or handle or store chemicals, and they also have to provide information for any employees that handle or use the chemicals, they have to provide information to those employees about physical and health hazards of exposure. So that’s the “who.”

1 thought on “GHS Basics – What You Need to Know”

  1. Excellent thoughts and a very good initiate/Attempt to make things easier for the users and the employees to follow MSDS on a easier way…..

    Afroze Ahmed

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