Over one million workers die yearly due to exposure to toxic chemicals. GHS labels are crucial in ensuring the safety, communication, and proper handling of hazardous substances in various industries.
When working with hazardous chemicals and materials, workers need to know exactly what they’re handling or working with. GHS labels can provide that all-important information.
However, there wasn’t a standard for labels of chemicals and hazardous goods for a long time. It caused a lot of problems and unnecessary risks for workers around the world. The GHS standard changed all of that. This guide will cover all you need to know about GHS labels.
What Does GHS Stand For?
Before we get into the specifics of GHS labeling or GHS label requirements, let’s start with the basics. GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
This globally-recognized standard is used to label containers containing hazardous chemicals or dangerous materials and substances. Over 65 different countries use the GHS standard in some form or another. There has been an increase in the adoption of GHS labeling since it was created in 1992.
What Does the GHS Do
So, what is a GHS label, and what does the GHS do? In simple terms, the GHS provides a set of rules or guidelines that countries can follow when making labels for hazardous material containers.
Countries have no legal obligation to apply a GHS label to every hazardous container they produce or ship. The GHS label elements are not mandatory. However, the idea behind the GHS label system was to make it simpler and easier for countries to label these items. It would improve safety standards for workers worldwide.
The GHS established a global hazard communication standard. It aimed to enhance worker safety worldwide and make life easier and less dangerous. Before GHS, labeling standards varied across countries. The goal was to simplify and reduce risks for workers.
Because of this, workers in one country could receive a shipment from another country and have yet to learn what was in it or how to handle it correctly. As the chemical container label could contain different terms and symbols. And when it comes to chemicals and hazardous materials, even a tiny mistake in handling can lead to serious consequences.
The GHS established a set of labeling and classifying guidelines to make everything simpler and more streamlined. Thanks to this, workers are safer, and shipments of chemicals are far easier to process and handle. There are fewer delays in the supply chain as shipments cross borders and travel worldwide.
GHS Label Requirements
Now we know what a GHS label is and why these standards were invented, so let’s look at what needs to appear on a typical GHS label. Specifically, we’ll focus on the six main GHS label elements that need to feature on each one.
First, each GHS label must have some sort of product identifier or chemical name at the top. It should state clearly what is inside the container. It must also include the scientific name of the chemical, batch, and code numbers may also feature here to make shipments easy to identify.
Next, each GHS label should contain a relevant GHS signal word. There are two signal words – ‘Danger’ and ‘Warning.’ Danger is used on the most dangerous containers, while a warning label is used for less hazardous materials.
A GHS label should also contain a statement explaining what sort of hazard the chemical inside the container may pose. For example, a container containing a flammable or toxic substance should have words like ‘Flammable’ and ‘Toxic’ in this section.
GHS chemical labels should also provide some precautionary instructions for workers about how the containers should be handled to reduce the risk of accidents or injuries, with messages like ‘Keep container closed’ and ‘Keep away from heat or flames.’
The label should also contain contact info for the company responsible for the container, like addresses and phone numbers.
Finally, various GHS symbols or pictograms can be placed on these labels to quickly inform workers of possible risks, regardless of their native language. There are nine recognized symbols.
Standardized Label Elements
The standardized elements of GHS labels need to be precise and follow the strict GHS guidelines. These include the signal words, the hazard statements, and the pictograms.
Harmonized Label Elements
The harmonized elements for GHS labels are those that are a little more flexible in terms of their appearance and format. They include the precautionary instructions, product name, and contact info.
The Importance of GHS Labels and Safety Data Sheets
When shipping or working with hazardous materials, GHS labels for chemical containers and safety data sheets are recommended. The manufacturer or supplier usually provides these sheets. They provide additional information on the hazards and safety precautions for each chemical.
The US chemical industry generates $450 billion annually, almost $80 billion of which comes from exports.
It’s very important to use safety data sheets and proper GHS labeling. It can help prevent many chemical-related incidents and accidents in the workplace.
It makes life significantly easier for workers in the relevant industries. Also, it speeds up shipping times and helps chemicals and materials get to their destinations without delays.
What Containers Require GHS Labels?
Any primary or secondary container containing chemicals or hazardous materials should be labeled with a GHS label to meet GHS standards and guidelines.
When we talk about ‘primary’ containers, this refers to drums, barrels, and boxes directly from the manufacturer. In contrast, ‘secondary’ containers may include bottles and canisters usually filled up from the primary container and don’t necessarily come directly from the original manufacturer.
What If the Container Is Too Small to Label?
When containers are too small for GHS labels, a range of alternatives may be chosen, like fold-out labels, which can be condensed into small spaces but fold-out to provide the relevant information, pull-out labels, or separate booklet labels.
GHS Labels and Transportation
GHS labels are often used when chemicals and hazardous materials must be transported from place to place. The labels should be positioned in easy-to-see places around the containers for easy viewing during transportation, and they need to be strong enough to withstand the changing conditions of their journey.
Polymer Fusion Labeling Technologies for GHS labels
GHS labels are crucial for keeping workers safe and allowing for the streamlined flow of chemicals across the globe. However, weak and outdated labeling methods could cause labels to fade, peel, or simply fail to provide relevant information.
For a more modern and trustworthy approach, permanent labels are the answer. Polymer fusion technology can create permanent labels that fuse directly with the plastic of chemical containers and can’t be peeled away or rubbed off.
These labels can provide GHS-compliant information and standards for the entire lifecycle of a chemical container and are fully recyclable, representing one of the best possible GHS labeling methods available today.