What is GHS?


Table of Contents

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is a standard developed by the United Nations (UN) to globally standardize and harmonize the classification and labelling of chemicals.

This system was developed on the ground that there were significant differences and inconsistency in classifying and labeling chemical products among countries and territories.

Under such situation, it was difficult for competent authorities to govern chemical-related activities, challenging for companies to comply with different local regulations, and confusing for workers and consumers to get appropriate information on chemical hazards.

GHS, therefore, produces a solution to address this issue. Particularly, this system provides:

  1. harmonized criteria for classification of substances and mixtures
  2. based on their intrinsic physical, health, and environmental hazards
  3. harmonized hazard communication elements
  4. including the content and format of labels and safety data sheets (SDS)

Target audiences of GHS:

  • consumers
  • workers
  • transportation workers
  • emergency responders

The ultimate aim of GHS is to improve the protection human health and the environment during the handling, transport, and use of chemicals.

Workers and the public can now refer to available hazard information to enhance their safety at work and in daily life.

GHS guidance also supports emergency responders with more efficient responses and best practices in case of chemical incidents.

Animal welfare is also uplifted as guidance on possible alternatives are provided in detail. By providing harmonized rules to classification and hazard communication, GHS also plays a vital role in facilitating international trading activities in chemicals whose hazards have been properly identified.

“GHS provides harmonized criteria for classification of substances and mixtures and harmonized hazard communication elements ”
including labels and SDSs

The UN-GHS is a voluntarily international system which is non-legal binding to any country. In other words, GHS provides a recognized and comprehensive framework as a reference.

More specifically, under a so-called building-block approach, countries are free to adopt GHS elements, which are applicable to them, to develop and implement their national GHS or to supplement to their existing chemical legislation system.

The adaptation of relevant GHS elements can be, for example, considered based on the product sector, the use settings, and the target audiences etc.

To date, there are numerous regions and countries word-wide that have adopted and enacted GHS. For instance, the European Union has established its version of GHS through the Regulation 1272/2008 (CLP) which regulates the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of the product.

Countries that have adopted and implemented GHS system

o   Argentina o   Greece o   Norway
o   Armenia o   Guatemala o   Paraguay
o   Australia o   Guinea o   Peru
o   Austria o   Honduras o   Philippines
o   Belarus o   Hungary o   Poland
o   Belgium o   Iceland o   Portugal
o   Bolivia o   Indonesia o   Republic of Korea
o   Brazil o   Ireland o   Romania
o   Bulgaria o   Israel o   Russian Federation
o   Cambodia o   Italy o   Senegal
o   Canada o   Japan o   Serbia
o   Chile o   Kazakhstan o   Singapore
o   China o   Kyrgyzstan o   Slovakia
o   Colombia o   Lao People’s Democratic Republic o   Slovenia
o   Costa Rica o   Latvia o   South Africa
o   Côte d’Ivoire o   Liechtenstein o   Spain
o   Croatia o   Lithuania o   Sweden
o   Cyprus o   Luxembourg o   Switzerland
o   Czech Republic o   Madagascar o   Thailand
o   Democratic Republic of Congo o   Malaysia o   Tunisia
o   Denmark o   Malta o   Turkey
o   Ecuador o   Mauritius o   Ukraine
o   Estonia o   Mexico o   United Kingdom
o   Finland o   Montenegro o   United States of America
o   France o   Myanmar o   Uruguay
o   Gambia o   Netherlands o   Viet Nam
o   Germany o   New Zealand o   Zambia
o   Ghana o   Nigeria


Developed based on the UN-GHS, the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regulation (EC No 1272/2008) came into force since 2009 to regulate the classification and labelling of substances and mixtures in the EU market.

CLP is a legal-binding regulation to all Member States of the EU with the aims of protecting human and environmental health and facilitating smooth movement of chemical-related products inside the Union.

Under the CLP, manufacturers, importers or downstream users of the substance or mixture are obligated to classify, label and package substances and mixtures before placing them on the market. Once the substance or mixture is classified as hazardous, the hazard information, including hazard class and category, must be communicated to actors involved the supply chain.

The hazard communication is visually enabled in the form of hazard labelling which consists of specific labelling elements:

  • hazard pictograms
  • signal words
  • hazard statements

CLP pictograms

In principle, the label as well as the safety data sheet are required to be composed in the official language(s) of the country where the product is placed on the market.

“CLP is a legal-binding regulation to all Member States in the European Union. The main actors under CLP regulation are manufacturers, importers, and downstream users”

In the CLP, there are certain hazardous substances whose classification and labelling are harmonized.

This harmonization of classification and labelling is to ensure a sound and harmonized risk management throughout countries in the Union for chemicals whose hazards meet specific criteria set in the regulation. A competent authority, manufacturer, importer, or downstream user can also submit proposals of harmonized classification and labelling of substances to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA).

For substances, which are subjects to REACH registration or meet certain criteria about hazard classification and concentration limit, their classification and labelling information must be notified to the C&L inventory database managed by ECHA.

This notification to C&L inventory is an obligation of the manufacturer or importer who is responsible for placing the substance on the market.

In line with Article 45 of CLP, importers or downstream users placing hazardous mixtures on the market, which are classified for human health or physical hazards, must provide specific information on their mixtures to appointed bodies through a process called Poison center notification (PCN).


Through the Law on Chemicals No. 06/2007/QH12 and Decree No. 113/2017/ND-CP, Vietnam has adopted and implemented technical rules and guidelines of GHS version 2 (2007) onwards. Particularly, classification, labelling, and safety data sheet are required for hazardous substances from 30/03/2014 and for hazardous mixtures from 30/03/2016. According to the regulations, SDSs shall be made in Vietnamese language.

How can Chementors support you

Chementors understand challenges that GHS regulations may put on clients. From years working in the GHS field almost as a daily-task basis, we are experienced in classification and labelling requirements of different countries around the world. In addition, we are well-equipped with an up-to-date safety data sheet and label authoring systems, Chemeter, that enables us to efficiently generate and translate legal SDS and label to multiple languages for requested market areas.

We can also help you review your current SDS and label to ensure their full compliance to the most updated regulations of the country of destination. When it is needed, we would discuss relevant issues with your suppliers to gather necessary information for the classification and labelling of the product.

Furthermore, when applicable, we would also evaluate available data to consult plausible options of classification and labelling tailored to client’s needs. If necessary, we would help clients modify and reformulate the product to minimize classification or to substitute substances of concern.
Chementors also handle C&L inventory and PCN notification under EU-CLP regulations and other country-specific GHS requirements.

Chementors’ GHS services

As our main goal, we strike to manage all chemical regulatory issues on a turnkey basis to support clients in opening the gate to the market.

Chementors’ team of specialists helps companies to survive in the ever changing jungle of laws concerning chemical, environmental and product safety in Europe and all around the World.

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