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GHS Compliance

Is Your Campus GHS Compliant?

About GHS

The Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), created by the United Nations, was designed to replace the diverse hazard classification systems around the world with one universal standard, which would improve knowledge of the dangers associated with hazardous chemicals.

The United States adopted the GHS in 2012 and OSHA’s adoption is a revision of their Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the GHS. GHS-compliance mandates are in full effect for higher education institutions. All organizations with chemicals must be compliant with the HCS 2012 Chemical Classification Guidelines.

'Hazard Communication' was the second most cited OSHA violation in 2017 - it's crucial that campus administration fully understand and implement these policies for handling and storing chemicals on campus to avoid federal fines.

Key Focus Areas for GHS Compliance:

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Chemical Labels

Employee Training

"The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. "
Occupational Health and Safety Administration 

GHS Terminology

To fully understand GHS and how to ensure your campus is compliant, it’s important to make your campus officials well aware of the terminology used.


GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. GHS defines and classifies the hazards of chemical products, and communicates health and safety information on labels and safety data sheets.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document that contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and how to work safely with the chemical product. Many MSDSs have been or are being updated to Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) includes information such as the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical.


The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the State agency responsible under a Plan approved under Section 18 of the Act for the enforcement of occupational safety and health standards in that State.

GHS Requirements

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

The GHS uses Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) instead of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) - if your campus has not already begun this process, it should carefully begin capturing SDSs and populating them into a library. Any employee that handles chemicals on campus should have immediate access to this library.

SDSs follow a standardized format which provides important chemical and safety information. Any purchased chemical should have a SDS provided by the manufacturer.  

Typically, a chemical SDS will provide essential information that outlines the dangers involved in handling, transporting, consuming, combining, storing, and disposing of the chemical.

Most importantly, the sheet will provide vital first aid information to first responders and physicians, along with emergency contact numbers.

Chemical Labels

All chemicals will have to follow a different labeling format than before. From this point forward, each chemical  must have the appropriate pictograms displayed on it. Chemical labels will have six standardized elements that include specific language depending upon chemical classification.

Pictograms are small illustrations, specific to a hazard, enclosed in a red-bordered diamond.

Employee Training

As you begin to prioritize complying with the new OSHA guidelines, it's important to establish an employee training program on GHS guidelines. Employees are often the first line of defense in handling and storing chemicals - if a situation occurs where a chemical is mishandled, their immediate actions are crucial.

Institutions need to train employees on any newly discovered hazards listed on safety data sheets and/or labels. This training will make them aware of additional dangers and procedures to follow if contact with the chemical is made. Also, employees should have a solid understanding of the new GHS pictograms and be able to explain what each means.

Remember as you begin to adopt these new guidelines that you don't forget to train employees on both formats of chemical classification - MSDSs and SDSs. There will be a mix of both formats in your library as you begin populating it with SDSs - it's essential employees know how to utilize both in case of an emergency.

For more information, please check out OSHA's resources here.

How SafeColleges Can Help


The SafeColleges SDS & Chemical Management System provides your institution with an easily-accessible, GHS compliant solution for storage and organization of your campus’s safety data sheets. Campus staff can quickly access or input data into our web-enabled system from any device, anywhere on campus. SDSs can be reached in a moment’s notice in case of an emergency. In addition, SafeColleges SDS has a repository populated with thousands of SDSs and QR codes, so that chemical information can be easily-accessible by any campus member.


The SafeColleges Training System includes a Safety Data Sheets course that provides staff with an understanding of Safety Data Sheets as they relate to hazardous chemicals, and the knowledge needed to use the information found in SDSs to protect yourself and others in your workplace. The course will review how SDSs are organized and why they’re necessary for hazardous chemicals, the different sections of an SDS and the information found in each, the GHS requirements and how they will affect SDSs, and how to use the information found on an SDS to handle chemicals safely.