Find answers to frequently asked questions about the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels. For more information, or if you need help, please visit our Support page.
- What is GHS?
- When does GHS take effect?
- Who does it affect?
- What is required on a GHS label?
- What is BS5609 Certification?
- What printers can I use to print GHS labels?
- Does Avery have software and templates for GHS?
- Does GHS affect current workplace hazard labeling systems?
- Does GHS apply to small containers of chemicals?
- If I have a GHS label, do I need a D.O.T label?
- Can I use Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels for other uses?
- Where can I get more detailed information on GHS?
1. What is GHS?
GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. It was developed by the United Nations and its goal is to standardize and harmonize the classification and labeling of chemicals to give universally understood warnings to users. The three major areas of impact are:
- Hazard Classification: Definitions of hazard now include specific criteria for classifying health and physical hazards as well as classification of mixtures. It will result in more accurate safety data sheets.
- Labels: Chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors must use labels that include a harmonized signal word, pictograms and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
- Safety Data Sheets: Now have a specific 16-section standardized format.
2. When does GHS take effect?
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted GHS in 2012. The timeline for implementation in the U.S. is as follows:
3. Who does it affect?
GHS affects chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and any company that has hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
- Chemical manufacturers must re-classify their hazardous chemicals based on a common system of chemical classification defined by GHS. They must update their safety data sheets and also use GHS-compliant labels to identify their hazardous chemicals.
- Chemical importers/distributors must ensure the hazardous chemicals they sell have GHS-compliant safety data sheets and GHS-compliant labels.
- Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must ensure that they have safety data sheets and labels for their exposed workers and that they are trained to handle the chemicals properly.
4. What is required on a GHS label?
The diagram below shows an example of the main elements of a GHS label.
A. Product Name/Identifier
Should match product identifier on SDS
B. Signal Word
Indicates relative severity of hazard
C. Hazard Statement
Describes the nature of the hazard
Symbols to convey health, physical and environmental information
E. Supplier Identification
Name, address, telephone number of supplier
F. Precautionary Statements
Measures to minimize/prevent effects of hazard (includes first aid)
- Reproductive Toxicity
- Respiratory Sensitizer
- Target Organ Toxicity
- Aspiration Toxicity
- Emits Flammable Gas
- Organic Peroxides
- Irritant (skin and eye)
- Skin Sensitizer
- Acute Toxicity (harmful)
- Narcotic Effects
- Respiratory Tract Irritant
- Hazardous to Ozone Layer
- Gases under Pressure
- Skin Corrosion/burns
- Eye Damage
- Corrosive to Metals
- Organic Peroxides
- Aquatic Toxicity
- Acute Toxicity (fatal or toxic)
5. What is BS5609 Certification?
Companies with chemicals that will be exported via ocean freight must also comply with British Standard BS5609. This is a requirement for International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) certification
- BS5609 Section 2 requires that the blank label and adhesive can withstand a three-month salt water submersion test. It also includes artificial weathering tests (salt spray and sunlight). When a label is Section 2 certified, it means the blank label is BS5609 Section 2 compliant.
- BS5609 Section 3 tests the printed label for abrasion resistance and permanence of print. This includes artificial weathering (salt spray & sunlight), tape removal and abrasion resistance. This test is conducted on labels printed with specific printers.
Even if you are not shipping overseas, going with a BS5609 certified material ensures a durable label that will resist falling off or fading if exposed to water or sunlight. Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels are BS5609 Section 2 and 3 certified*.
* To see a list of printers that are BS5609 Sec. 3 certified with Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels, click here.
6. What printers can I use to print GHS labels?
If you do not require BS5609 Section 3 certification:
For Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels designed for laser printers, you can use a standard laser printer and have good durability. For best results, use the Label setting on your printer.
For Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels designed for inkjet printers, you can use pigment-based inkjet printers and have excellent durability. Examples include HP® OfficeJet Pro and Epson® WorkForce® Pro printers. Click here to learn about pigment-based ink.
If you require BS5609 Section 3 certification, you must select specific printers and labels that are designed to work together to pass certification. Click here to see a list of printers that are BS5609 Sec. 3 certified with Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels.
7. Does Avery have software and templates for GHS?
Yes. Use Avery Design & Print GHS Wizard for a quick and easy way to create GHS labels. You can start with a blank or pre-designed template and then add GHS compliant information using a guided process. For more information click here.
8. Does GHS affect current workplace hazard labeling systems?
Yes. If a chemical is supplied to the workplace with a GHS label, it must be maintained. If the chemical is transferred to a secondary container (i.e. tank or spray bottle) that remains in the workplace, then employers can choose to have it labeled it with the same information from the original GHS shipping label or safety data sheet. However, employers can also choose to use an alternative system such NFPA or HMIS. If using an alternative system, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the information is consistent with GHS and that workers understand specific physical and health hazards.
If the chemical is transferred to a "portable" secondary container for use by only the person who transferred it during the same work shift, then it is considered "immediate use" and a label is not required.
9. Does GHS apply to small containers of chemicals?
Yes. Even if the hazardous chemical is in a small bottle, a manufacturer, importer or distributor must attach a GHS label to a hazardous chemical’s immediate container if it is to be transported. It cannot be attached only to the outside packaging of a shipped chemical.
If a chemical manufacturer is able to show that it is not feasible to use a label (i.e. pull-out, fold out label) or tags containing full GHS information, the shipped small chemical container at a minimum must contain the following:
- Product identifier
- Appropriate pictograms
- Manufacturer's name and phone number
- Signal word
- A statement indicating that the full label information for the chemical is on the outside package that is holding the smaller containers.
Additionally, the outside packaging at a minimum must comply with the following:
- Outer label has all applicable GHS elements and it must be maintained (i.e. not torn, faded or destroyed)
- Information stating that the small container must be stored in the outer container which has the complete GHS label
- Ensure that outer packaging does not conflict with any other standard (i.e. outer packaging cannot be flammable if it contains a flammable chemical)
10. If I have a GHS label do I need a D.O.T label?
Yes, D.O.T labels must still be on the external part of a shipped container and must meet the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) requirements set forth in 49 CFR 172, Subpart E. OSHA will allow both D.O.T and GHS pictograms for the same hazard on a label. While the D.O.T diamond label is required for all hazardous chemicals on the outside shipping container, chemicals in smaller containers inside the lager shipped container do not require the D.O.T diamond but do require the GHS pictograms.
11. Can I use Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels for other uses?
Yes, Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels are perfect for any application where high durability and adhesive performance is required. These labels are underwater submersible and resistant to chemicals, abrasion, weather, sunlight, tearing and temperature. Some alternate uses include:
- Hazard Warning Labels & Signs
- Arc Flash Labels
- Vat and Tank Labels
- Marine equipment labels
- Outdoor work labels
Avery UltraDuty GHS Chemical Labels work on multiple surfaces including: plastic, metal, painted surfaces, fiberboard, polycarbonate, glass, etc.
12. Where can I get more detailed information on GHS?
Visit our Support page for additional information about GHS, regulatory requirements and proper labeling information.
For more information on The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, visit the OSHA website at
*The information within this FAQ does not constitute legal advice. Every situation is unique. Please contact an attorney for specific advice.