The Globally Harmonised System

Hi Laurie O’Donaghue again from Total Management and Training with another whiteboard session on hazardous chemicals. Today I will be talking to you about the globally harmonised system (GHS).

Globally harmonised system is for the classification and labelling of chemicals.  It is basically a system to classify and communicate hazards associated with hazardous chemicals internationally around the world.  

As you can see in the video, the pictogrmas shown are used to label containers and also in the safety data sheets. They provide you with information about the issues associated with that chemical and they are a good indicator when you get a chemical into your workplace of the things you need to consider as part of your risk assessment.

We have 9 different pictograms and I’m going to go through each of these briefly just to give you a description, it’s only a simple description, but a description of what each one of these stands for.

The first one I want to talk to you about is a flame over circle. You can see the flame over the top of a circle with a line underneath and that relates to oxydizing gases, liquids and solids. 

The flame deals with simply, flammables, self-heating substances – that is substances that self-generate heat.  A substance that could emit a flammable gas that you could inhale or that could explode.  They may react with themselves and it includes thing like organic peroxides. 

The last one on this part is the exploding bomb which basically is explosives, self-reactive, pretty obvious is the exploding bomb one.

The next one we need to look at is gas cylinders, now that could be gasses under pressure and can include things like compressed gasses and liquefied gasses.

The skull and crossbones is things like acute toxicity.  That can be fatal or toxic and it can include the oral – in through the mouth, dermal – contact through the skin and inhalation – inhaling a fume or something like that from the substance.

Corrosive could be things like skin and corrosion burns, it could be corroive to another substance such as metal.  It could cause eye damage if it comes into contact with your eye.

Health hazards include things that are carcinogens, in other words cause cancer, mutagens, reproductive toxicity, that can affect males and females in the reproduction organs and finally can be a respiratory sensitizer.

This can include things like those substances which can affect your breathing and affect long term to breath and take oxygen.

Environment includes things like aquatic toxicity, environmental toxicity so its those things that can impact on the environment.

And finally, we have the exclamation mark which is basically a health hazard and can include things like irritants – skin and eye, skin sensitizer, acute toxicity, narcotic and breathing irritants.


 That’s the end of another whiteboard session on Globalised Harmonised System and we will give you more information in other sessions.


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