Have you ever wondered why the U.S. adopted the Globally Harmonized System?
We have the story here, as well as an instructional video that helps employees get quick information on what the GHS pictograms mean so they can put them to use.
Events Leading to the Globally Harmonized System
Unfortunately, the US has a long history of exposure tragedies. As the Industrial Revolution brought amazing technologies and innovations to the world, it also brought a new onslaught of chemcial exposures to workers.
White phosophorus was used in the first "strike anywhere" matches and resulted in employee’s jaw bones literally rotting away. The condition became known as “phossy jaw”. It would take two decades hundreds of cases of phossy jaw before the match industry would invent a non-toxic manufacturing practice.
This was just one of many exposure incidents. Then came asbestos, lead, and radiation to name a few.
As the industrial revolution continued, we learned plenty of lessons the hard way.
The Hazard Communication Standard
It took the United States until 1983 to introduce the hazard communication standard. This gave all workers in the United States the right to know the hazards of the substances they worked with.
In 2012, the Globally Harmonized System was implemented. This made chemical information easy to interpret by using signal words and pictograms.
More than 65 countries have agreed to use the Globally harmonized system (GHS) for chemical labels and safety data sheets. Rather than using overly complicated chemical information, labels now focus on pictograms. This makes it easy to identify hazards, no matter what language you speak.
The Globally Harmonized System
Along with pictograms, the label will also tell you the product name, manufacturer’s information, signal word, hazard statements, and precautionary statement.
Now, for more in-depth chemical information, you may want to see a Safety Data Sheet. Safety Data Sheets will show you the in-depth information organized into 16 sections.
Every employer with hazardous substances keeps an inventory of SDS’s for those substances, so ask where you can find yours today. Also, all employers with one or more hazardous substances must have a written Hazard Communication Program, you can get yours here.
We’ve come a long way when it comes to dealing with hazardous substances. Remember, it’s your right to know the hazards of the substances of you work with. Be smart, take precautions and go home healthy.