Introduction

The Globally Harmonized System was initiated at the UN Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It aims, amongst other goals, to harmonize the classification and the hazard communication elements of chemicals (labeling and safety data sheets). The first version became available in 2003 in the form of the so called purple book (compared to the orange book for transportation). Regular updates should take place every 2 years. GHS harmonizes most classification criteria for supply and transportation and is based on the intrinsic properties of substances. GHS allows individual countries or regions to implement building blocks at their own discretion. The building blocks, however, may not be altered. Additionally there is room for Competent Authority Options and special limits for the communication of components in mixtures.

Reasons for the development of GHS

  • Growing international trade
  • Different requirements for labeling of chemicals
  • Different classifications of identical products in different countries
  • Requirement for an international safety standard

GHS Elements

Compared to the current EU system the most noticeable change are the pictograms (formerly: hazard symbols). While the most of the GHS pictograms have an equivalent in the old system, the pictograms GHS 04, GHS 07 and GHS 08 are completely new.

The GHS System is built on 16 physical, 10 health and 3 environmental hazard classes and comprises the following communication elements:
9 Pictograms

Description Pictogram Hazard class and hazard category:
Exploding Bomb (GHS01) GHS01
  • Unstable explosives
  • Explosives of Divisions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
  • Self reactive substances and mixtures, Types A,B
  • Organic peroxides, Types A,B
Flame (GHS02) GHS02
  • Flammable gases, category 1
  • Flammable aerosols, categories 1,2
  • Flammable liquids, categories 1,2,3
  • Flammable solids, categories 1,2
  • Self-reactive substances and mixtures, Types B,C,D,E,F
  • Pyrophoric liquids, category 1
  • Pyrophoric solids, category 1
  • Self-heating substances and mixtures, categories 1,2
  • Substances and mixtures, which in contact with water,
  • emit flammable gases, categories 1,2,3
  • Organic peroxides, Types B,C,D,E,F
Flame Over Circle (GHS03) GHS03
  • Oxidizing gases, category 1
  • Oxidizing liquids, categories 1,2,3
Gas Cylinder (GHS04) GHS04
  • Gases under pressure:
  • - Compressed gases
  • - Liquefied gases
  • - Refrigerated liquefied gases
  • - Dissolved gases
Corrosion (GHS05) GHS05
  • Corrosive to metals, category 1
  • Skin corrosion, categories 1A,1B,1C
  • Serious eye damage, category 1
Skull and Crossbones (GHS06) GHS06
  • Acute toxicity (oral, dermal, inhalation), categories 1,2,3
Exclamation Mark (GHS07) GHS07
  • Acute toxicity (oral, dermal, inhalation), category 4
  • Skin irritation, category 2
  • Eye irritation, category 2
  • Skin sensitisation, category 1
  • Specific Target Organ Toxicity – Single exposure, category 3
Health Hazard (GHS08) GHS08
  • Respiratory sensitization, category 1
  • Germ cell mutagenicity, categories 1A,1B,2
  • Carcinogenicity, categories 1A,1B,2
  • Reproductive toxicity, categories 1A,1B,2
  • Specific Target Organ Toxicity – Single exposure, categories 1,2
  • Specific Target Organ Toxicity – Repeated exposure, categories 1,2
  • Aspiration Hazard, category 1
Environment (GHS09) GHS09
  • Hazardous to the aquatic environment
  • - Acute hazard, category1
  • - Chronic hazard, categories 1,2