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Global Harmonization System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals


The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its final rule on the revised changes to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) on March 26, 2012. This revision will align the HCS with the Global Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.   The major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) are:

  • Hazard classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification under the new, updated standard provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards as well as classification of mixtures. 
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class or category.  Refer to section below for additional information on Labels.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS-no longer called MSDS): The new format requires 16 specific sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of important product information. Refer to the OSHA quick card on SDS for additional information on SDS.
  • Information and training: To facilitate understanding of the new system, the new standard requires that workers be trained by December 1, 2013 on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format, in addition to current training requirements.


Manufacture Labeling Requirements:

Signal Word: a single word on the label to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label.  The signal words used are “Danger” and “Warning.”  Danger is used for the more severe hazards, while warning is used for the less severe hazards.

Pictograms: There are nine pictograms under the GHS to convey the health, physical and environmental hazards. The final Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires eight of these pictograms, the exception being the environmental pictogram, as environmental hazards are not within OSHA’s jurisdiction.  The hazard pictogram and their corresponding hazards are shown below.

HCS Pictograms and Hazards

Health Hazard

Health Pictogram

  • Carcinogen
  • Mutagenicity
  • Reproductive Toxicity
  • Respiratory Sensitizer
  • Target Organ Toxicity
  • Aspiration Toxicity


Health Pictogram

  • Flammables
  • Pyrophorics
  • Self-Heating
  • Emits Flammable Gas
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxides

Exclamation Mark

Health Pictogram

  • Irritant (skin and eye)
  • Skin Sensitizer
  • Acute Toxicity
  • Narcotic Effects
  • Respiratory Tract Irritant
  • Hazardous to Ozone Layer (Non-Mandatory)

Gas Cylinder

Health Pictogram

  • Gases Under Pressure


Health Pictogram

  • Skin Corrosion/Burns
  • Eye Damage
  • Corrosive to Metals

Exploding Bomb

Health Pictogram

  • Explosives
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxides

Flame Over Circle

Health Pictogram

  • Oxidizers



Health Pictogram

  • Aquatic Toxicity

Skull and Crossbones

Health Pictogram

  • Acute Toxicity (fatal or toxic)

Hazard Statement: a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard (shown with the pictogram above.)

Refer to the OSHA Quick Card on Labels for additional information on labels.

Portable (Workplace) Container Labeling Requirements:

Chemicals transferred from the original labeled container to a secondary container or any other containers prepared on site for internal use require labels.  You may choose to label portable (workplace) containers with the same label that would be on shipped containers for the chemical under the revised rule or with label alternatives that meet the requirements of the standard.

Alternate labeling systems such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 704 Hazard Rating and the Hazardous Material Information System (HMIS) are permitted for portable (workplace) containers.

Example of HMIS Label

 HMIS Label

Example of NFPA Label



The table below summarizes the phase-in dates required under the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS)

Effective Completion Date



December 1, 2013

Train employees on the new label elements and SDS format.


June 1, 2015*

December 1, 2015

Comply with all modified provisions of this final rule, except:

Distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015.

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers

June 1, 2016

Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.


Transition Period

Comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (this final standard), or the current standard, or both.

All chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers

Related Resources/Links

OSHA-Global Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals Information