The Globally Harmonized System was developed decades ago in order to help create a standard for the labeling and classification of chemicals that could be used by companies around the world. Prior to this standard, companies shipping or receiving chemicals would have to relabel and classify them to comply with local ways of doing things. This could be very costly, and worse, could expose people to unnecessary risks associated with this process.
The United Nations helped to facilitate the creation of GHS, and continues to manage it today. They work with companies and countries around the world to come up with the best and most effective standards for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. Having this one centralized standard is necessary and important for keeping employees, facilities, and the environment safe. When implemented properly, it can provide the following key benefits:
- Overcoming Language Barriers – GHS uses pictograms to convey information regardless of the language people speak.
- Universal Standard – Having the one standard throughout the world makes it easier for companies to work together.
- Cost Savings – No matter where a chemical comes from or is shipped to, the labeling standards will be the same so they don’t need to be redone.
- Improved Safety – The most important benefit is that having a single standard that is followed makes working with hazardous chemicals much safer for everyone involved.
Another great thing about GHS is that while it is managed by a centralized group (the UN) it is followed voluntarily by companies around the world. The UN has no enforcement power behind GHS, but businesses continue to adopt the practices because it has been proven to be the most effective way to label and classify hazardous chemicals. Many individual country governments, including the US through OSHA, have even made changes to existing standards in order to comply with the GHS because of its effectiveness and popularity.