Introduction to HCS and GHS Compatibility
Written by Steve Hudgik
Chemicals have a wide range of health and physical hazards. OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), was created in 1983 to ensure employees are informed about these hazards and how to protect themselves. With GHS this purpose has not changed. What GHS does is bring the U.S. Standards in line with world standards and provides a standard that more effectively communicates the needed information.
Under the HCS chemical manufacturers and importers must use GHS labels to provide hazard information about the chemicals, or chemical mixtures, they produce or import. They must also provide more detailed hazard information using Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). The Safety Data Sheets required by the new standard replace the MSDS that were previously required.
In addition, as under the old HCS, all employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program. In addition, all containers, including secondary containers, must be labeled with GHS labels and employees provided with access to SDSs. All exposed workers must be trained in reading GHS labels and SDSs, and how to protect themselves from the chemical hazards in their workplace.
GHS - A Right To Know
The HCS gives workers the right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to in the workplace. With this right to know workers can be better able to protect themselves from chemical hazards.
There is a lot of information on the old MSDS. In an emergency situation workers have had difficulty finding the information they need.
The new GHS labels and SDS ensure workers have access to information that is easier to find and understand. This is accomplished through the use of standardized formats and GHS labels with more information and standardized elements such as signal words, pictograms, hazard statements and precautionary statements.
What is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS)?
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) provides a set of criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards. It specifies the hazard communication elements for GHS labels and the formatting for Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
Globally the GHS is not a regulation or a standard, but a set of recommendations that a competent national authority can adopt. OSHA has adopted the GHS, modifying the existing HCS to be in conformity with the GHS.
The new HCS requires that GHS labels and SDS forms be in full use by June 1, 2015. The existing inventory of products labeled using the old system may continue to be shipped until December 1, 2015.