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Identifying hazardous chemicals

How Can the GHS Benefit Me?

The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, also known as GHS, is just as the name suggests, a method being used by countries around the globe to identify the hazards of chemicals and clearly communicate this information to persons who use or handle those chemicals.

Last week we gave you the first look at the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, looking at some of the pictograms that it uses. We provided you with four of the commonly misunderstood pictograms as well as what they really mean. Below are the final five of the nine pictograms used by the GHS along with their true meanings.

1. Applies to chemicals that can cause severe skin burns; cause severe eye damage; or be corrosive to metals and will damage other materials.

2. Applies to chemicals that can have short term or long lasting effects on environments that contain water such as the sea, rivers and streams.

3. Applies to chemicals that are extremely flammable gases, aerosols, liquids, vapours and solids that may catch fire easily.

4. Applies to chemicals that can cause cancer; cause allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled or swallowed; affect the ability to have children or cause birth defects in offspring; damage organs.

5. Applies to chemicals that can be fatal/toxic if swallowed; fatal/toxic if inhaled; fatal/toxic in contact with skin.

Now, knowing what the symbols mean, let’s talk about why you need to know them — how can they benefit you?

The goal of the GHS is to ensure that employers, employees and the public receive adequate, practical, reliable and wide-ranging information on the hazards of chemicals, so these individuals in turn, can take the necessary preventative and protective measures for their own health and safety, and even those they work with. It has implications not just for governments and companies, but workers and members of the public as well, in real tangible ways.

For Government, the GHS could result in fewer accidents and incidents; lower costs to health care because of chemical related incidents; improved protection for workers and the public related to chemical hazards; improved inter-ministerial and interagency coordination and cooperation, as well as improved communication on chemical issues, both domestically and internationally.

For companies, it could mean a safer work environment as well as methods to transport chemicals. It can improve efficiency and reduce the cost of compliance with hazard communication regulations. It can reduce costs due to fewer accidents and illnesses; and also improve a company’s corporate image and credibility.

For the worker and ordinary members of the public, it can improve safety for workers, consumers and others through consistent and simplified communications on chemical hazards and practices to follow for safe handling and use; and also bring greater awareness of hazards, which could result in safer use of chemicals in the workplace and at home.

So you see, educating yourself about the GHS, can be lifesaving and can also save you money in the long run.

Next week, we will look at the labels and safety data sheets used by the GHS to communicate hazards.

So stay tuned!

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