Laboratory Show and Tell: New Labels and Pictographs Coming Under GHS Rules

Chem Industry News

GHS implementation is coming soon.  Are you ready?
Under GHS rules, all hazardous chemicals are required to have both a pictogram and a label.
Image source: Pishro12 via

In 1992, an Earth Summit was held in Rio, Brazil. Sponsored by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the conference consisted of 172 unique governments from around the world, with 116 sending their sitting heads of state. At the time, it was the largest gathering of countries ever assembled to discuss ways to protect and sustain the environment.

Similar to other conferences, a lot was said without, unfortunately, much action to follow it up. However, this particular gathering did result in one crucial agreement. Everyone committed to the development of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Twenty-two years after that initial agreement, the deadline for GHS implementation is right around the corner. Now, the biggest concern many laboratories have is the development and implementation of compliant pictograms and labels.  Let’s look at some of the details that compliance will require.


The idea behind GHS is to provide users with more information regarding the health hazards associated with chemicals. It was determined that it would be best to address this pictorially, as well as through printed material. For the visual aspect, information will be represented with a pictogram.

GHS lays out specific instructions regarding how pictograms need to be presented. First, they must be in the shape of a square that is set on its point. Second, they must include a black hazard symbol indicating on a solid white background the type of risk the chemical presents. Finally, the whole thing must be framed in red. In order to be appropriately classified, the pictogram must include all of the above mentioned aspects.

GHS rules
These are the OSHA approved pictograms that will soon be affixed to all hazardous chemicals.
Image source:


In addition to the pictorial depiction of any health hazard, GHS also requires additional information regarding chemical contents and risks. This will be shared through the inclusion of a label.

Under GHS requirements, the label needs to consist of written, printed or additional pictorials information regarding hazardous chemicals. These labels will need to be affixed to, printed on or attached to the immediate container or the outside packaging. Each label must contain the following:

  • Name, address, phone number of the manufacturer – Contact information for the company responsible for the creation of the chemical.
  • Product Identifier – This is usually the chemical name, code number or batch number.
  • Signal Word – These are words such as “Danger” and “Warning” that are intended to alert the reader to any potential hazard.
  • Hazard Statement – This section should describe the hazardous nature of the chemical.
  • Precautionary Statement – Describes the measures that should be taken to reduce the risks associated with handling the chemical.

Besides the pictograms and the labels, GHS also requires that lab safety managers train users regarding the proper handling of hazardous chemicals. Of course, addressing this training aspect will require a complete list of all the hazardous chemicals at a respective location. Tracking this level of information is easily done with a chemical inventory management system.

The benefits of a chemical inventory management system include the ability to quickly query chemicals by a hazardous chemical identifier like “flammable” or “explosive.” The system can also provide information regarding where these particular chemicals are stored. Using this information, safety managers can target the sites that need training.

GHS is expected to officially take effect in the United States on June 1, 2015. On that date, laboratories will need to make sure that they have affixed proper pictograms and labels that clearly indicate the danger associated with the chemicals in their warehouse, or ensure that the manufacturer has affixed these labels. Will your site be ready for this new requirement?

For more information regarding how a chemical inventory management system like BIOVIA CISPro can help your laboratory prepare for GHS adoption, please visit our website today.

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