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10 advantages of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

American industries are in the process of transitioning to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), as required by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).

The GHS was developed through a series of multi-year negotiations among hazard communication experts from all over the world, international organizations, and other key groups and stakeholders. This process resulted in a globally harmonized system of classification and labeling of chemicals document created by the United Nations. This document, also known as The Purple Book, outlines universal hazard criteria, label elements, and SDS formatting.

Changes under the GHS will align U.S. chemical hazard communication with the United Nations’ global chemical labeling system. The goal is to make information on chemical risks and safety easier to access and understand.

While employers may already know about the GHS, below are 10 important benefits of the initiative:

1. More than 43 million American employees who work with hazardous chemicals are expected to be positively impacted by the GHS changeover 
2. 5 million workplaces are estimated to benefit by the transition to the GHS  
3. OSHA expects the revised HCS will help prevent 585 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 occupational deaths each year. This reduction in on-the-job accidents will save an estimated $250 million each year 
4. The GHS is expected to improve industrial productivity by preventing 203 workdays lost due to occupational illness and injuries annually
5. OSHA estimates the GHS will save American businesses more than $475 million due to simplified training, fewer label and safety data sheet (SDS) updates, and increased productivity
6. The GHS is currently being implemented across the world by countries including the European Union, China, Japan, Australia, and Canada
7. The total net savings expected to result from the GHS is $754 million per year  
8. The GHS includes nine pictograms, symbols that easily communicate chemical hazards without using words
9. The GHS is intended to be a “living document.” To ensure policies stay relevant and up-to-date, changes are expected to be adopted every two years 
10. The operations of chemical manufacturers will be streamlined, since they will need to produce fewer SDSs in the future

The goal of the GHS is to increase safety and cost benefits for workplaces that use chemicals. Help reduce injuries and illness among employees handling chemicals by thoroughly training crews on the GHS and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, protective clothing, safety goggles, and respiratory protection.

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