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Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS)

What is the GHS?

The GHS is a single internationally agreed system of chemical classification and hazard communication through labelling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Currently different countries have different systems for classification and labelling of chemical products. These different systems make regulation of this hazard difficult, impose an additional burden on business and can impact on safe use at the workplace level. The GHS is published by the United Nations and includes 'harmonized' criteria for the ready classification and understanding of physical, health and environmental hazards.

What will change?

Australia will implement the GHS for workplace hazardous chemicals (both substances and mixtures) from 1 January 2017. The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation introduced the GHS to replace current systems used for classifying workplace chemicals by standardising information on labels and SDS (formally called Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)).

The key requirements for hazardous chemical management are described in Chapter 7, Hazardous Chemicals, of the Work Health and Safety Regulations (Cth) 2011. Specific naming, labelling and hazard requirements of the GHS are further described in the following resources:

Information Source Contents
Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals Briefly explains the labelling requirements under the GHS and links to the Code of Practice for Labelling Workplace Hazardous Chemicals
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) Briefly explains the purpose of an SDS and links to the Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals
Advice for duty holders [PDF,218KB] Information for duty holders under the WHS Act on implementing the GHS
Are you GHS ready? Poster [PDF,336KB] A3 size poster for workplace display on essential features of the GHS
Introduction to GHS Animation Provides an overview, from the perspective of general workplace awareness, of the GHS changes that will take full effect from 1 January 2017.
GHS Workplace Awareness E Learning Resource An E Learning resource providing general workplace awareness training.  May be undertaken in addition to viewing the “Introduction to GHS” Animation.
GHS – What you need to know [PDF,215KB] Information for workplaces on the application of the GHS
GHS/ADG Quick Guide and Display [PDF,2.2MB] Information for workplaces on GHS labeling and Australian Dangerous Good Code symbols with a quick reference to dangerous goods compatibility in storage
GHS FAQsAnswers to some commonly asked questions relating to the GHS

Who will be impacted?

The Work Health and Safety Regulations impose a duty on manufacturers and importers of chemicals supplied to a workplace to determine if a chemical is hazardous, and to correctly classify the chemical according to the GHS (3rd Revised Edition 2009).

Even workplaces in states that have not adopted the model WHS legislation will still be affected by the introduction of the GHS. Commonwealth persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) will need to ensure that all hazardous chemical labels and SDS are in the new GHS format by 1 January 2017.

Page last updated: 04 Jul 2016