GHS Training: What’s On a Chemical Label?

Chemical labeling is the first step in the process of using chemicals safely. And now that hazard communication has been aligned with the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), if you are an employer that that uses, handles, and/or stores chemicals, you’ve got some training to do on how to read the new labels.

Here’s a quick training guide for talking to your workers about reading GHS-compliant chemical labels.

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Supplier identification: This must include the name, address, and telephone number for the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other supplier.

Signal words: The chemical label will include one of two signal words that tell you the relative severity of the hazard presented. It alerts you to a potential hazard.

  • "Danger" is used for the more severe hazards.
  • "Warning" is used for less severe hazards.

Hazard statements: These statements describe the nature of the hazard and, where appropriate, the degree of the hazard. The hazard statement can include information on fatal or toxic exposures, organ damage, and routes of exposure.

For example, a hazard statement could say:

Highly flammable liquid and vapor.
May cause liver and kidney damage.

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Precautionary statements: These statements describe recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects from exposure to a chemical or improper storage or handling.

Four types of precautionary statements appear on a chemical label.

  1. Prevention. For example, "Wash thoroughly after handling."
  2. Response. For example, "If swallowed, immediately call a poison center."
  3. Storage. For example, "Store locked up."
  4. Disposal. For example, "Dispose of in accordance with local, regional, national, and international regulations, as specified."

Pictograms: These include a symbol and other graphic elements intended to convey specific information about the hazards of a chemical. They appear on a white background within a diamond-shaped square with a red border and are placed on the label based on a chemical’s hazard classification.

There are eight mandatory hazard symbols used in pictograms. Each conveys the specific hazard of the chemical, with a ninth nonmandatory symbol for environmental hazards. See tomorrow’s Advisor for a training cheat sheet on these pictograms.

Supplemental information: This includes any additional information provided on the chemical label that is not required or specified by the GHS amendments to HazCom.

BLR’s environmental and safety legal experts have been bombarded lately with questions from subscribers on the specifics of the GHS standard. If you’re looking for more information too, see these related posts from Environmental Daily Advisor and Safety Daily Advisor.

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