The Development of GHS
Implementation of GHS
In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development discussed current hazard communication and labeling, and determined that:
"Globally harmonized hazard classification and labeling systems are not yet available to promote the safe use of chemicals, inter alia, at the workplace or in the home. Classification of chemicals can be made for different purposes and is a particularly important tool in establishing labeling systems. There is a need to develop harmonized hazard classification and labeling systems, building on ongoing work.
A globally harmonized hazard classification and compatible labeling system, including material safety data sheets and easily understandable symbols, should be available…." (Agenda 21: Chapter 19 ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND MANAGEMENT OF TOXIC CHEMICALS, INCLUDING PREVENTION OF ILLEGAL INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC IN TOXIC AND DANGEROUS PRODUCTS)
This determination led to the development of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, or GHS. GHS is generally based on harmonizing existing chemical classification and communication systems that are in place in the U.S., Canada, the European Union, and the international transport system, although elements of other systems were also considered. All systems will have to make changes to achieve harmonization. GHS also reflects key findings from communications and comprehensibility research, emphasizing simplification of hazard statements and signal words and greater use of pictograms combined with words to communicate information. The new system was developed and adopted by consensus of government and stakeholder representatives.
After nearly 15 years of work on the details of GHS, many countries are now ready to begin implementation. Among those who have signaled their intention to adopt the GHS are Canada, the EU and other European countries, Japan and other Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, South Africa and several other developing countries.