Globally Harmonized System for Classification & Labeling of Chemicals, July 2013

Download Available: GHS 

Background: GHS or the Globally Harmonized System for classification and labeling of chemicals has been adopted by OSHA earlier this year.  While GHS may be the buzz word, we are still talking about the Hazard Communication Program (HCP) enacted by OSHA in 1986 that is currently in affect at 5 million employers across the United States.  HCP covers a written plan, MSDS, chemical labeling and training for employees that use these chemicals.  The implementation of GHS by OSHA is spread across the next few years as follows:

  • December 1, 2013: Train Employees on how to use the new Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and GHS Classification and Labeling
  • June 1, 2015: Compliance with the law regarding Labeling, Training, and the new Safety Data Sheets
  • December 1, 2015: Ship products with New Labels
  • June 1, 2016: Update the Hazard Communication Program and provide additional training for new hazards reported under the new SDS regime.

Note:  During the transition time, the employer may comply with either the old or new regulations or both!


HCP is the most frequently cited violation by OSHA to the General Industry and hence, it is important that we understand the changes this new law is expected to bring about.  For example, 3 of 10 citations issued by OSHA in recent years have been on HCP.


Reason for Change:  OSHA has long believed that the old HCP program gave chemical manufacturers too much flexibility in how to present hazard information resulting in MSDS that were difficult to read, understand, and inconsistent.  The new program shifts the focus from “Right to Know” to “Right to Understand.”  We believe that the new program will improve the quality of the SDS (old MSDS) by establishing a harmonized structure and improve protection to workers, employers, and chemical users.  The revised standard will have an overall cost of $201 million/year according to OSHA.  GHS has been in the making for over 10 years and has been approved for use within 60 nations.  The global trade in chemicals is over $1 billion and uniform labeling by countries will facilitate that commerce as well.


Labeling Changes:  HCP applies even if you have one chemical in commercial use at your dealership, and will apply to labeling of all chemicals coming from the factory and from other independent vendors.  The labeling changes will be completed by the chemical manufacturers and distributors, so no changes need to done at the dealership level.  However, secondary labeling where chemicals are transferred from a bulk container to a smaller secondary container must be labeled under the new GHS standard.


The secondary labeling has always been a challenge to employers. Certain employees, due to their literacy or language barrier, may not be able to label the containers accurately.  Furthermore, the labeling by employees completed by ink pens is washed off by the chemicals they are refilling in the secondary containers.  Dealerships should make a policy where only vendor provided pre-labeled containers are used to refill from



bulk containers. Such bottles should be purchased in suitable quantities and stored in accessible location within easy reach of the end users. Sure shot containers, if in use, will also need new labeling.


Stationary bulk containers at the dealership that are refilled by vendors on site will require new labeling.  Some tanks/drums that will require new labeling are as follows:

  • Gasoline/Diesel tanks or dispensers
  • New Oil/ATF tanks
  • Paint Gun Cleaner Drums in Body Shop
  • Detail Chemical Drums


Safety Data Sheet:  The GHS program calls for all MSDS in effect now to be changed to the new SDS under a new format.  The SDS will list hazards in addition to the ones on the MSDS in areas as follows:

  • Environmental Hazards (EPA guided)
  • Ecological Information
  • Disposal Consideration (EPA guided)
  • Transport Information (DOT guided)


OSHA website clearly acknowledges that it has no authority in the area of environmental, disposal, or transport elements and as such no citations will be forthcoming from OSHA regarding compliance activity in these areas which are newly listed on the SDS.


Action Plan/Monthly Mailer:  A training memo on GHS and a pictogram being sent to your dealership by mail must be used to train employees on new labeling signs.  The colored GHS sheet may be posted on the technician notice board after the training has been completed.  As always, keep documentation of the training completed including the name and signature of the employees in attendance.  A training video covering the changes under the GHS is in the works and will be distributed to dealers in a timely manner.

As always, your comments are welcome.  Please send us an email to

Poster: A quick card pictogram from the OSHA website can be downloaded as well.


Sam has been helping automobile dealers comply with EPA & OSHA regulations in California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii & New York since 1987. Sam received his MS (1986) in Chemical Engineering from School of Mines & Technology followed by a JD (1997) from Southwestern University. Sam is a Certified Safety Professional. Send your comments/questions to

Authority Cited:  Title 29CFR 1900.1200

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