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GHS - Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemical, or GHS are mandatory global standards developed by the United Nations and designed to standardise chemical classifications, labelling and data sheets.

What are the benefits of GHS

The implementation of GHS will bring a vast amount benefits for chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors.

What are the changes

As part of the GHS, there are three key areas which will be impacted - hazard classification, labelling, and safety data sheets. The key changes for uses of chemicals will be Safety Data Sheets (SDS) replacing Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), the presences of pictograms classifying hazardous chemicals and new warning information on labels

GHS Symbols and Meanings

Pictograms are universal symbols intended to quickly convey special information about the hazards of chemicals. There are nine hazard pictograms in the GHS which represent the physical, health and environmental hazards. These are as follows;

Skull and Crossbones

Acute toxicity via oral, dermal, or inhalation

Flame Over Circle

Oxidising substances

Health Hazard

Aspiratory or respiratory hazard, carcinogenecity, mutagenicity


Hazardous to the environment

Exploding Bomb

Explosives, self-reactive substances, organic peroxides

Gas Cylinder

Compressed, liquefied, or dissolved gases

Exclamation Mark

May cause immediate health effect - skin, eye, respiratory


Corrosive, skin damage, eye damage


Flammable, pyrophoric, self-heating substances; water reactive

Safety Data Sheets

Previously named Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are now referred to as Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and follow a specific 16-section standardised format. Similar to the Materials Safety Data Sheets the format and sections of the SDS remain very similar with the most prominent changes appearing in Sections 2 and 3.



Chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors will have to use labels incorporating a harmonized signal word, pictogram/s and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements will also be required.

1. Product Identifier Name on the products
2. Identify and Proportion The ingredients and percentage of ingredients in the product
3. Signal Word One of two words indicating the seriousness of the hazard. Warning is used to describe less sever hazards while Danger means severe hazards
4. Hazard Statement A hazard statement is a brief message describing the nature of the hazard, such as ' Causes serious eye irritation'
5. Pictogram Universal symbols intended to quickly convey special information about the hazards of the chemicals
6. Precautionary Statements This section outlines how to respond in case of exposure and how to store chemicals safely and properly
7. Contact Details Contact details of the Australian manufacturer or importer

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