Guide to GHS Labels

on 03/25/2021

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification (GHS) is a standardized classification and labeling system adopted by the UN in order to create cohesion and standards for all companies that need to label or purchase chemical products.

Whether your company manufactures, handles or uses chemical products, it's important to pay close attention to the GHS label. Those who regularly handle toxic, flammable, corrosive or otherwise hazardous chemicals should have proper knowledge of what chemicals they have and/or how to properly label them. Using custom product labels ensures the handler won't receive fines for mislabeling and the customers will receive exactly what they're paying for.

Consider this a high-level guide for all you need to know about GHS labels and requirements. We'll go over the basic elements of GHS labels, which containers need to be labeled, durability requirements for GHS-compliant labels and more.

The Six Required Elements of a GHS Label

The six elements of GHS labeling include both standard and harmonized components. These GHS label elements provide complete transparency to the user or company that purchases the harsh chemical. Every GHS label must include the following six components.

Standard GHS Label Elements

Standard GHS label components or elements must be exact and in accordance with the unified standards put forth by the Globally Harmonized System of Classification. These elements must be listed together.

  1. Signal Word. The first component of GHS-compliant labels is the signal word. This element explains the severity of the health hazard. Only one word will be placed in this section of the GHS label: "Danger" (reserved for severe hazards) or "Warning" (used for less severe hazards). This ensures the signal word is clear and simple in order to understand the hazard severity of the chemical.
  2. Hazard Statement(s). The next element of hazard communication on a GHS label is that of a hazard statement. This describes the degree of danger, as well as potential symptoms in the case of direct contact with the chemical. In most instances, there will be multiple hazard statements per GHS label.
  3. Pictograms/GHS Symbols. All GHS labels should include pictograms with universally readable symbols that illustrate the specific hazards of the chemical. Most GHS chemical labels contain more than one pictogram if the chemical has multiple hazards.

Harmonized GHS Label Elements

Harmonized GHS label components or elements do not have to appear in a standardized format predetermined by the GHS. The look of these will vary, but they must still be included in some form on all GHS labels. While these elements have no specified placement standard, they should be placed in a way that is legible and easy to understand.

  1. Product Identifier and/or Ingredient Disclosure. The next part of a GHS label is known as the product identifier or the ingredient disclosure. Most often placed in the top left-hand corner of the label, it identifies any hazardous chemical or ingredient that is in the product. The product identifier typically includes the state name, batch number or code number. This allows for quick and easy identification of the chemical.
  2. Precautionary Statement(s). A GHS label's precautionary statement is usually a short paragraph of instructions for how workers and users should minimize exposure to the chemical in order to reduce the risk of harm. There are currently four types of precautionary statements:
    • The storage statement explains the chemical's storage requirements.
    • The prevention statement includes instructions for how to minimize exposure to the chemical.
    • The response statement describes the proper response procedure in the case that one is exposed to the chemical.
    • The disposal statement instructs users on how to properly dispose of the chemical.
  3. Supplier/Manufacturer Information. Lastly, GHS chemical labels should include the supplier or manufacturer information. This includes the name, address and phone number of the chemical's manufacturer, supplier or importer. This information is critical in the case that there's a problem or an emergency occurs.

What are the Durability Requirements for GHS Labels?

GHS labels need to be able to hold up under extreme conditions. In case a barrel is lost at sea, the contents must be identifiable and readable in all languages. Because of this, GHS labels undergo many rounds of testing to ensure the wording remains legible. GHS label requirements are as follows:

  • Must be resistant to abrasions.
  • Must be resistant to chemicals.
  • Must be resistant to extreme temperatures.
  • Must be resistant to fading and smudging.
  • Must be resistant to rain, snow and UV exposure.
  • Must be resistant to saltwater.

What Containers Require GHS Labels?

All primary and secondary containers are required to be labeled with a GHS label in order to be considered GHS compliant.

Primary containers include boxes, drums or large barrels that come directly from a manufacturer. Note that a label that is already on a primary container cannot be removed or altered in any way. Secondary containers include small bottles, buckets or canisters that are usually filled with a chemical from the primary container. GHS labels for secondary containers must include all of the information that is also provided on the primary container's GHS label.

The Importance of GHS Labeling and Safety Data Sheets

Safety data sheets (SDS) are a critical component of the GHS labeling system. Each SDS is unique to its specific product and provides information regarding potential hazards, as well as recommended safety precautions. Most of the chemical's hazard information can be found on the corresponding SDS.

Safety data sheets are typically provided by the manufacturing company. If not, there are many online databases where you can track down the correct SDS. If you are working with a brand-new substance or an entirely new mixture of hazardous substances, you are required to create your own SDS.

Let LLT Create A Custom GHS Label Solution for You

Need to print high-quality GHS labels for your chemical products? At LLT Labels, we take great pride in creating complete adhesive solutions customized to your exact specifications. Our durable, GHS-compliant labels are designed to withstand even the harshest of environments, so the label and wording will stay put. Reach out for additional information about our selection of GHS chemical labels or to get a quote for any of our premium adhesive solutions. Shop our selection of custom labels today.