OSHA will issue the globally harmonized system (GHS) for classification and labeling of chemicals next month, according to remarks made in May by OSHA head Dr. David Michaels at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo. Although there's no information about a GHS implementation date on the OSHA web site today, there are several resources that explain the system and how it differs from current labeling standards.
The GHS provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets. Under the GHS, labels would include signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements and safety data sheets would have standardized format.
It is anticipated that all existing hazard communication systems will need to be changed in order to apply the GHS. For example, in the U.S. EPA and OSHA would be expected to require hazard pictograms/symbols on labels.
The need for GHS labels and/or Safety Data Sheets is expected to vary by product category or stage in the chemical's life cycle from research/production to end use. For example, pharmaceuticals, food additives, cosmetics and pesticide residues in food will not be covered by the GHS at the point of consumption, but will be covered where workers may be exposed (workplaces), and in transport.
The exact requirements for labels and Safety Data Sheets will continue to be defined in national regulations. Expect to hear more on this in the weeks ahead.