The American Society of Safety
Engineers (ASSE) has been preparing health, safety and environment (HSE) professionals for
major compliance changes that are required by the United
Nations (UNs) Globally Harmonized System (GHS).
GHS, a consistent way to globally communicate chemical hazard
information, was adopted by the UN in 1992 and by the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on March
20, 2012. The US Federal Register published the final
rule on March 26, with the effective date coming 60 days after
the date of publication. Companies that work with chemicals are
expected to have trained their employees on how to read the new
material safety data sheets (MSDS) and labels by June 1, 2013,
and to have all employee training completed by June 1,
ASSE members recommend that
companies and their employees become familiar with the new
globalized product/chemical hazard identifier symbols (Fig. 3),
which have been redesigned to include a red border. A new
symbol has also been added to the group under the jurisdiction
of GHS, which indicates that a chemical is an environmental hazard.
Fig. 3. Examples of the new
hazard identifier symbols that
are a part of the UNs Globally
Risks associated with exposure to
chemicals are broad and can range from burning of the skin or
eyes; damage to the bodys respiratory or neurological
system; birth defects; or deadly diseases, including
In todays world of global
trade, it has become necessary to have a harmonized system for
the classification and labeling of chemicals. Such systems will
make it easier for employees around the world to understand the
hazards of certain substances they come into contact with and
to take the necessary precautions to stay safe on the job.
The revised GHS hazard
communication standard (HCS) now focuses on an employees
right to understand the hazards of materials they come into
contact with while on the job.
Differences in chemical
regulations, classifications and labeling of chemicals in
various countries have led to problems in communicating the
dangers of hazardous materials. In addition, compliance with
multiple regulations can be costly and time consuming for
corporations. These burdens can make it difficult for them to
The GHS requires consistent
communication in labeling, explained ASSE member Glen
Trout, president and CEO of Chicago-based MSDSonline.
Experts strongly urge those
affected by GHS to begin implementation and employee training
as soon as possible to ensure that they are not mired with
compliance requirements at the last minute.
Companies are encouraged to begin a
dialogue with their employees to ensure that they understand
the changes. They should also talk to their chemical suppliers
to find out their plans to transition to GHS.
OSHA estimates that once GHS is
fully implemented, employers will save approximately $32.2
million as a result of higher efficiency in transporting
products around the globe, as well as a decrease in
workers compensation and lost work time due to chemical