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The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals—What to Expect

Chris Ingram
Compliance Coordinator

Hazard Communication Standard Pictograms
Click here to download

You may notice a new look to many labels and data sheets that accompany chemical products purchased from Carolina Biological Supply Company. The change is not just visual, but a comprehensive update to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (also known as HazCom or HCS). This move aligns US regulations with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) adopted by the United Nations.

The GHS standardizes the approach to communicating chemical hazards. Chemical manufacturers are required to evaluate their company-produced chemicals for potential hazards and communicate any discovered hazards to downstream users. Specific criteria establish chemical classification, resulting in more uniform hazard assessments. Additionally, regulators in many countries are incorporating the GHS framework into their own country’s hazard-communication regulations. In 2012 OSHA updated the existing HazCom to align with GHS.

Here are a few major changes to note:

  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are renamed Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • Standardized pictograms appear on both the label and SDS for hazardous materials
  • Hazardous materials carry a hazard classification that drives standardized warnings and pictograms
  • Deadline for required training of employees is December 1, 2013

So how do these changes affect you? Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of an older Carolina MSDS and its counterpart, an SDS updated using GHS guidelines.

Differences between the new GHS standard (SDS) and the old standard (MSDS)

New GHS Standard (SDS)
Click here to download a sample


REMOVED: NFPA classification

MOVED: Revision dates to Section 16

Section 1

REVISED: Product description simplified

Section 2

ADDED: GHS classification, pictograms, and standardized hazard and precautionary statements

Section 3

MOVED: TLV/PEL component values to section 8

Section 4

ADDED: GHS phrases where applicable

Section 5


MOVED: Flash point to section 9

ADDED: Hazardous combustion products

Section 6

INCLUDED: GHS phrases where applicable

Old Standard (MSDS)
Click here to download a sample

Section 7

INCLUDED: GHS phrases for handling and storage, added storage code

Section 8

ADDED: TLV/PEL component values

EXPANDED: PPE selection data

Section 9

EXPANDED: Available physical data fields as required by GHS

Section 10

ADDED: Reactivity field

Section 11

EXPANDED (greatly): Toxicity data

ADDED: Chronic effects and symptoms, toxicity value table, carcinogenicity classification table, mutagenicity, teratogenicity, sensitization, and reproductive fields

Section 12

EXPANDED (greatly): Ecological data

ADDED: Ecological hazard, mobility, persistence, bioaccumulation, biodegradability, other adverse effects, and ecotoxicity data

Section 13

No major changes

Section 14

INCLUDED: IATA proper shipping name

Section 15

ADDED: More regulatory classifications

Section 16

ADDED: Revision dates

EXPANDED: Glossary