GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System (of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals). It is a set of standards that was developed and is managed by the United Nations. It was designed originally to replace the different standards that were used in countries around the world. With the ever increasing amount of global business, this is an important safety effort because it helps to ensure hazardous chemicals are labeled in a way that people will understand no matter where they happen to be.
Since this program is designed to convey information to people from countries throughout the world, it is necessary to use visual communication standards that everyone can understand. While words can be used to offer additional information about a particular chemical, the main point of a GHS label is going to be the pictogram.
Pictograms are simple images that have a specific meaning. The standard is to have a red diamond that surrounds a black and white image within to let people know what type of hazards a particular chemical has associated with it. For example, the red diamond with a black exclamation point is the GHS pictogram standard for harmful substances. Another example is a red diamond with a black and white image of a camp fire, which is used to represent flammable chemicals including gasses, liquids, aerosols, solids, and more.
There are many pictograms within this program. Those who are going to work in an industry where hazardous chemicals are used need to take the time to learn what each of the pictograms mean. In their jobs, they will likely see these pictograms on GHS labels throughout a facility. In most countries, they are required on any container that is used to store or apply a hazardous chemical. They are also seen on trucks or boats that are used to transport these types of chemicals. Having the ability to identify what hazards are present at a glance makes it much easier for everyone to stay safe.