The GHS, or Global Harmonization Standard, has its roots in the UN, or United Nations. It came out of a need for a unified method to communicate chemical hazards and other important relevant information. Up until this time, manufacturers would have their own way of presenting their information. The result was that consumers would have to discern how to read and glean the necessary information out of perhaps thousands of different formats. We needed a more unified, consistent and logical way to communicate the important, and often times, critical information.
Safety Data Sheets
One of those important documents is the MSDS, or Material Safety Data Sheets. The GHS changed it to simply SDS, or Safety Data Sheets. This document is important because it communicated not just the hazards of the chemical, but also how to deal with and dispose of them and avoid injury. The GHS SDS sections was designed based on the idea that there needed to be enough sections to cover every possible detail a chemical could have. Many chemicals do not make use of every section, but regardless they still must display it. If you go to the OSHA website here, you can find the requirements the UN came up with and a comparative chart showing the new SDS’s vs the classic OSHA MSDS and what’s been changed or included.
Sections, Sequence and Content
The GHS is very specific about how and when this critical chemical information is to be displayed. Let me quote OSHA itself:
“The SDS should contain 16 headings. The GHS MSDS headings, sequence and content are similar to the ISO, EU and ANSI MSAS/SDS requirements, except that the order of sections 2 and 3 have been reversed. The SDS should provide a clear description of the data used to identify the hazards.” –pg 46
Without further ado, here are the required 16 sections in the required order with which information they need to include.
- Product and company identification
• GHS product identifier.
• Other means of identification.
• Recommended use of the chemical and restrictions on use.
• Supplier’s details (including name, address, phone number, etc.).
• Emergency phone number.
- Hazards identification
• GHS classification of the substance/mixture and any national or regional information.
• GHS label elements, including precautionary statements. (Hazard symbols may be provided as a graphical reproduction of the symbols in black and white or the name of the symbol, e.g., flame, skull and crossbones.)
• Other hazards which do not result in classification (e.g., dust explosion hazard) or are not covered by the GHS.
- Composition/information on ingredients
• Chemical identity.
• Common name, synonyms, etc.
• CAS number, EC number, etc.
• Impurities and stabilizing additives which are themselves classified and which contribute to the classification of the substance.
• The chemical identity and concentration or concentration ranges of all ingredients which are hazardous within the meaning of the GHS and are present above their cutoff levels.
NOTE: For information on ingredients, the competent authority rules for CBI take priority over the rules for product identification.
- First-aid measures
• Description of necessary measures, subdivided according to the different routes of exposure, i.e., inhalation, skin and eye contact, and ingestion.
• Most important symptoms/effects, acute and delayed.
• Indication of immediate medical attention and special treatment needed, if necessary.
- Firefighting measures
• Suitable (and unsuitable) extinguishing media.
• Specific hazards arising from the chemical (e.g., nature of any hazardous combustion products).
• Special protective equipment and precautions for firefighters.
- Accidental release measures
• Personal precautions, protective equipment and emergency procedures.
• Environmental precautions.
• Methods and materials for containment and cleaning up.
- Handling and storage
• Precautions for safe handling.
• Conditions for safe storage, including any incompatibilities.
- Exposure controls/ personal protection
• Control parameters, e.g., occupational exposure limit values or biological limit values.
• Appropriate engineering controls.
• Individual protection measures, such as personal protective equipment.
- Physical and chemical properties
• Appearance (physical state, color, etc.).
• Odor threshold.
• melting point/freezing point.
• initial boiling point and boiling range.
• flash point.
• evaporation rate.
• flammability (solid, gas).
• upper/lower flammability or explosive limits.
• vapor pressure.
• vapor density.
• relative density.
• partition coefficient: n-octanol/water.
• autoignition temperature.
• decomposition temperature.
- Stability and reactivity
• Chemical stability.
• Possibility of hazardous reactions.
• Conditions to avoid (e.g., static discharge, shock or vibration).
• Incompatible materials.
• Hazardous decomposition products.
- Toxicological information
Concise but complete and comprehensible description of the various toxicological (health) effects and the available data used to identify those effects, including:
• information on the likely routes of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, skin and eye contact);
• Symptoms related to the physical, chemical and toxicological characteristics;
• Delayed and immediate effects and also chronic effects from short- and long-term exposure;
• Numerical measures of toxicity (such as acute toxicity estimates).
- Ecological information
• Ecotoxicity (aquatic and terrestrial, where available).
• Persistence and degradability.
• Bioaccumulative potential.
• Mobility in soil.
• Other adverse effects.
- Disposal considerations
• Description of waste residues and information on their safe handling and methods of disposal, including the disposal of any contaminated packaging
- Transport information
• UN Number.
• UN Proper shipping name.
• Transport Hazard class(es).
• Packing group, if applicable.
• Marine pollutant (Yes/No).
• Special precautions which a user needs to be aware of or needs to comply with in connection with transport or conveyance either within or outside their premises.
- Regulatory information
• Safety, health and environmental regulations specific for the product in question.
- Other information
• Other information including information on preparation and revision of the SDS
If this looks like a lot of information to take in, you are not alone. This is an impressive collection of data. Fortunately for most of us, we just need to focus on reading through the relevant sections for our industries and plan appropriately. If you are a manufacturer, the good news is you just need to develop one SDS per chemical you produce. Please feel free to refer back to this list if you need to spruce up your understanding of what sections contain what.