It’s been a long time coming.  And it’s finally here.  OSHA has adopted the GHS system.  What is the GHS System?  It’s the United Nation’s  Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of chemicals.  Remember, MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and the HCS (Hazard Communication Standard), well GHS is the bigger, better, more advanced younger brother.  GHS was developed in 1992 to unify the world’s chemical classifications and labeling, making it easier to identify hazardous chemicals throughout the world.  Why the reluctance of the United States to join the movement?  Well, that’s a story for another day.

On March 20, 2012, OSHA announced their adoption of GHS and stated that it would be published in the Federal Register on March 26th, 2012, which means that the Rule will take effect 60 days after its publication.

Since we are talking about dates, the big date to keep in mind is December 1st, 2013 which is drop dead date for employers to ensure that affected employees are trained on the new GHS system.


There are some major benefits to employees who will be the end user of the new and improved Safety Data Sheets (SDS), which have traditionally been referred to as MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets).  The new SDS will have a specified set of 16 sections, which all chemical manufacturers must adhere too.  This is a great improvement over the MSDS system, which allowed manufacturers to develop various sets of MSDS’.  While most contained the same sets of information, many where in random orders, which made it difficult for end users to understand the information.  The SDS will streamline this issue and provide clarity to the end user.

What About California

Remember, since California is a State Plan State, it must provide equivalent or better standards that Federal OSHA.  This means that if California does not have the system in place, you will need to follow the Federal – you need to follow GHS.

What Not To Do

Don’t throw away your old MSDS’ just yet.  Remember there are various standards both in Federal OSHA and State OSHA plans which require employers to keep MSDS’ for 30 years after any exposure or incident involving exposure.

What To Do Right Away

Make sure that your chemical hygiene officer or MSDS manager is fully aware of the changes in the standards.

Look to ensure that all of your suppliers have plans to conform to the new GHS system and provide you with updated SDS as implementation dates come along.

Download and read the Federal Register to become familiar with the new regulations.

Attend some free webinars and training session on the topic.

If you have questions or concerns about the new GHS sytem, don’t hesitate to contact us.