GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System, which is actually a shortened version of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. This is a set of standards for classifying and labeling potentially hazardous chemicals to help bring people from around the world together for the safety of everyone. As of the last release of information, more than 65 countries have formally begun using these standards, and many others also use the insights from this program in one way or another.
History of GHS
GHS was first developed in 1992 by the United Nations. It began as part of their Earth Summit with the hope of providing a safer workplace for people, and to help protect the environment. The standards within GHS provide detailed information about what types of hazards are present with a given chemical, and how they need to be handled in order to prevent any type of accident or injury. GHS is intended to apply to people throughout a chemical’s lifecycle. This would include those who make a chemical, those who transport it, and those who use it.
Enforcement of GHS
It is important to be aware of the fact that GHS is not itself, or even a system of regulations. On its own, this system does not have any enforcement power at all, meaning companies must follow it voluntarily. Many countries, however, have incorporated the strategies contained in GHS into their workplace safety regulations. OSHA, for example, has required compliance with GHS standards since 2015. In addition, as GHS is updated, OSHA tends to follow suit relatively quickly.
The regulations that are based on GHS are among the most important and closely monitored by OSHA. Since 2009, OSHA has given out more than 47,000 citations to violations related to hazard communication. In fact, it is the second most commonly issued type of citation (behind fall protection).