Hazard Communication Resources & Guidelines

It is estimated that more than 32 million workers are exposed to 650,000 hazardous chemical products in more than 3 million American workplaces.

Chemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation, sensitization and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (such as flammability, corrosion and reactivity). It is important to be aware of the potential effects of the chemicals employees work with each day. This information is provided through supervisors, through written materials such as Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and through training from departments and EHS.

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

The EHS Office provides the required training and refresher classes, along with a template to comply with written program requirements. EHS answers questions regarding hazards in the work area to provide information on how to protect employees from these hazards.

GHS Information

What is GHS?

  The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

  GHS is a system for standardizing and harmonizing the classification and labeling of chemicals.

  Defines health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals.

  Creates a classification process and defined hazard criteria.

Why was GHS created?

  The production and use of chemicals is fundamental to all economies.

  Having readily available information on the hazardous properties of chemicals, and recommended control measures, allows the production, transport, use, and disposal of chemicals to be managed safely.

GHS Label Elements

OSHA has updated the requirements for labeling of hazardous chemicals under its Hazard Communication Standard. All labels are required to have pictograms, a signal word, hazard and precautionary statements, the product identifier, and supplier identification. It is important that chemical users understand these changes.

What is GHS?

Product Identifier

Product Identifier is how the hazardous chemical is identified. This can be (but is not limited to) the chemical name, code number, or batch number. The manufacturer, importer, or distributor can decide the appropriate product identifier. The same product identifier must be both on the label and in Section 1, Identification of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

Signal Word

Signal Word is used to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. There are only two signal words: “Danger” and “Warning.” Within a specific hazard class “Danger” is used for the more severe hazards and “Warning” is used for the less severe hazards. There will only be one signal word on the label no matter how many hazards a chemical may have. If one of the hazards warrants a “Danger” signal word and another warrants the signal word “Warning,” then only “Danger” should appear on the label.


OSHA’s required pictograms must be in the shape of a square set at a point and include a black hazard symbol on a white background with a red frame sufficiently wide enough to be clearly visible. A square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol is not a pictogram and is not permitted on the label. OSHA has designated nine pictograms under this standard for application to a hazard category.

Why was GHS created?

Hazard Statement(s)

Hazard Statement(s) describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard, for example: “Causes damage to kidneys through prolonged or repeated exposure when absorbed through the skin.” All of the applicable hazard statements must appear on the label. Hazard statements may be combined where appropriate to reduce redundancies and improve readability. The hazard statements are specific to the hazard classification categories, and chemical users should always see the same statement for the same hazards no matter what the chemical is or who produces it.

Precautionary Statement(s)

Precautionary Statement(s) is a phrase describing recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical or improper storage or handling.

Supplier Information

Supplier Information should include: Name, address, and phone number of the chemical manufacturer, distributor, or importer.

Safety Data Sheets

Section 1: Identification

Includes the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) product identifier; other means of identification; recommended use of the chemical and restricted use; supplier’s details (including name, address, phone number, etc.); and emergency phone number.

Section 2: Hazards Identification

Includes the GHS classification of the substance/mixture and any national or regional information; GHS label elements, including precautionary statements; and other hazards which do not result in classification or are not covered by the GHS.

Section 3: Composition/Information on Ingredients

Includes information on chemical ingredients.

For substances: 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.

For mixtures: the chemical identity and concentration, or the concentration ranges of all ingredients which are hazardous, as defined by the GHS and are present above their cutoff levels.

Section 4: First Aid Measures

Includes a 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.

Section 5: Fire-Fighting Measures

Includes suitable (and unsuitable) extinguishing media; specific hazards arising from the chemical; and special protective equipment and precautions for firefighters.

Section 6: Accidental Release Measures

Includes personal precautions, protective equipment, and emergency procedures; environmental precautions; and methods and materials for containment and cleaning up.

Section 7: Handling and Storage

Includes precautions for safe handling and conditions for safe storage, including incompatibilities.

Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection

Includes control parameters, e.g. OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), ACGIH Threshold Limit Values (TLVs); appropriate engineering controls; and individual protection measures, such as personal protective equipment.

Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties

Includes appearance (physical state, color, etc.); odor; odor threshold; pH; melting/freezing point; initial boiling point and range; flash point; evaporation rate; flammability; upper/lower flammability or explosive limits; vapor pressure; vapor density; relative density; solubility(ies); partition coefficient: n-octanol/water; autoignition temperature; and decomposition temperature.

Section 10: Stability and Reactivity

Includes chemical stability; possibility of hazardous reactions; conditions to avoid (e.g. static discharge, shock, or vibration); and incompatible materials and hazardous decomposition products.

Section 11: Toxicological Information

Concise, but complete 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, ingestions, 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; and numerical measures of toxicity (such as acute toxicity estimates).

Section 12: Ecological Information

Includes ecotoxicity (aquatic and terrestrial, where available); persistence and degradability; bioaccumulative potential; mobility in soil; and other adverse effects.

Section 13: Disposal Considerations

Includes a description of waste residues and information on their safe handling and methods of disposal, including the disposal of any contaminated packaging.

Section 14: Transport Information

Includes UN number; UN proper shipping name; transport hazard class(es); packing group, if applicable; marine pollutant (yes/no); special precautions with which a user needs to be aware or needs to comply in connection with transport or conveyance either within or outside their premises.

Section 15: Regulatory Information

Safety, health, and environmental regulations specific for the product in question.

Section 16: Other Information

Including information on preparation and revision of the SDS.