The GHS is an acronym for The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The GHS is a system for standardising and harmonising the classification and labelling of chemicals. It is a logical and comprehensive approach to:

  • Defining health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals;
  • Creating classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria; and
  • Communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

GHS Document ("Purple Book")

Many countries already have regulatory systems in place for these types of requirements. These systems may be similar in content and approach, but their differences are significant enough to require multiple classifications, labels and safety data sheets for the same product when marketed in different countries or even in the same country when parts of the life cycle are covered by different regulatory authorities. This leads to inconsistent protection for those potentially exposed to the chemicals, as well as creating extensive regulatory burdens on companies producing chemicals.

·        The GHS itself is not a regulation or a standard.

The GHS Document (referred to as "The Purple Book") establishes agreed hazard classification and communication provisions with explanatory information on how to apply the system. The elements in the GHS supply a mechanism to meet the basic requirement of any hazard communication system, which is to decide whether the chemical product produced and/or supplied is hazardous and to prepare a label and/or Safety Data Sheet as appropriate. Regulatory authorities in countries adopting the GHS will thus take the agreed criteria and provisions and implement them through their own regulatory process and procedures rather than simply incorporating the text of the GHS into their national requirements. The GHS Document thus provides countries with the regulatory building blocks to develop or modify existing national programmes that address the classification of hazards and transmittal of information about those hazards and associated protective measures. This helps to ensure the safe use of chemicals as they move through the product life cycle from "cradle to grave."

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