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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 adopted the GHS under work health and safety laws on 1 January 2012 with a five year transition period for full implementation by 1 January 2017. After 1 January 2017, SDS and labels must be GHS compliant although inventory already in the supply chain, labelled under the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances [NOHSC: 1008(2004)] may continue to be consumed.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?

Chapter 7 of the WHS Regulations imposes duties upon manufacturers and importers of chemicals supplied to a workplace to determine if the chemical is hazardous, and to correctly classify the chemical according to the GHS. Similar duties apply to persons conducting a business or undertaking, who are end users of hazardous chemicals, to ensure that chemicals supplied to them are appropriately labelled with the GHS.

After 1 January 2017, SDS and labels must be GHS compliant although inventory already in the supply chain, labelled under the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances [NOHSC: 1008(2004)] may continue to be consumed.

Page last updated: 05 Jan 2017