Hazard classifications may vary and the workplace label requirements differ across the two regions.

GHS: All for One, One for All?

I liken the transition to OSHA's Hazcom 2012, incorporating principles of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), to eating broccoli as a kid. We know that it's good for us, but it may not taste very good going down!

The challenge for safety managers adopting GHS is not just the change itself, but the fact that the transition will occur over several years, thus requiring organizations to accommodate current standard material safety data sheets (MSDSs), new standard safety data sheets (SDSs), and potentially various versions if you have operations in more than one country.

The potential gap that I see for organizations is the definition of a GHS-compliant safety data sheet. As the GHS implementation varies from country to country, there may be differences in the SDS and label requirements for those various countries. So your organization may have a GHS-compliant safety data sheet for Europe that it is more than happy to share with you in the United States; however, it's most likely not compliant here because OSHA's adoption of GHS is slightly different from the European CLP regulation. Hazard classifications may vary and the workplace label requirements differ across the two regions.

Ultimately, you'll need a system that cannot check only for GHS compliance, but also check for specific agency or country compliance in the country where your workforce is. Additionally, in Europe for example, the SDSs need to be in the native language, so now you're dealing with multiple language requirements. Keeping up and being able to properly present the proper language SDS is something else your SDS management system should handle.

What you can do now is prepare for and understand the required changes to transition to the GHS standard. OSHA's adoption of GHS into the updated HazCom 2012 standard is written across some 900 pages in the agency's final rule! However, we've summarized "Just The Facts About GHS" in this easy-to-digest GHS Infographic regarding what you need to know about GHS. Enjoy and share with your colleagues in and out of the EHS profession.

Kraig Haberer is COO of SiteHawk, a cloud-based SDS management provider that offers software and managed services to help companies manage their chemical data, hazard communication, and employee health and safety initiatives.

Posted by Kraig Haberer on Jun 15, 2012