Under GHS, Chemical Labels Are As Easy to Read As the Seahawks Passing Routes

Chemical Regulations, Lab Safety

Tom Brady and Malcolm Butler made the game look easy, just like reading chemical labels standardized under GHS.
Image Source: Lance Cpl. Edward L. Mennenga, USMC via Wikimedia Commons

This last Sunday’s Super Bowl was an extremely close game. In the final 30 seconds of play, the New England Patriots were up by four points, but the Seattle Seahawks were only one yard away from scoring a touchdown. Although most teams in a tense situation such as this would choose to run the ball, the Seahawks, much to the confusion of fans, opted to throw it. Unfortunately for them, Malcolm Butler, the Patriots cornerback, managed to intercept the ball and stop the Seahawks from scoring.

After the game, Butler explained that he was able to intercept the ball because he read the play perfectly. He knew exactly where the receiver was going to be and where the quarterback was going to throw the ball. This allowed him to jump the route and make the game-winning catch.

Much like Butler reading the passing route of the opposing team, simplification of understanding chemical labels is the main purpose of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Under GHS, anyone should be able to read a chemical label as easily as Butler read the route in the final minute of the Super Bowl.

Many people may be wondering how GHS can simplify chemical labels. Currently, the only thing consistent about chemical labels is the fact that they are required. However, under GHS, the following areas have been outlined as needing standardization:

  • Hazardous Statement – Under GHS, the top portion of every label must include a hazardous statement. This statement must be a universal phrase that everyone will understand. Examples include, “Harmful if swallowed” and “Harmful to Human Life.” The statement must be clear and concise so that anybody handling the chemical will be aware of potential dangers.
  • Pictogram – In recognition that some people may not be able to read the hazardous statements, GHS requires that a picture depicting the hazard be included on the label. Formatting is particularly important for this requirement since it provides the appropriate warning emphasis. According to the regulations, the picture should be encircled by a red border, with a symbol inside that depicts the hazard class. This might be a skull and cross bone to denote a chemical that is potentially fatal, or a fire to indicate that a substance is flammable.
  • Precautionary Statement – This part of the label includes steps that must be taken to avoid the consequences depicted in the pictogram. In other words, this information covers the recommended precautionary steps that prevent any negative consequences from coming about.
  • Product Identifier – This portion of the label could be a combination of letters or numbers that link the chemical to its corresponding safety data sheet. This allows users who need to know more details about a chemical to locate it quickly within their database of safety documents. However, laboratories could make the lookup process even simpler through the use of a chemical management system that uses barcode technology. Users can scan the chemical and quickly gain access to a digital copy of the safety data sheet for further reference.
  • Signal Word – This is a single word that must be printed on the label to warn people regarding the severity of the chemical. Currently, there are two primary signal words. The first is “Warning” and should be added to less dangerous chemicals. The other one is “Danger” and needs to be added to more hazardous chemicals.
  • Supplier Identification – The final component required on the GHS label is the contact information for the supplier. This information allows users to contact the vendor for more information or to obtain missing safety data sheets.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl because Malcolm Butler was able to easily read the Seahawks’ passing route. Similarly, GHS is designed to ensure that employees are able to easily read a chemical label and understand the risks and steps that need to be taken to handle the chemical contents safely.

For more information on how BIOVIA CISPro can help laboratories reach GHS compliance and implement standardized labeling, please visit our website today.

4 thoughts on “Under GHS, Chemical Labels Are As Easy to Read As the Seahawks Passing Routes

  1. This is excellent news, particularly about the pictogram. I think this type of labeling should be required on all household products, and it should also include whether or not it’s safe for pets. I see many cleaning products that don’t include that information.

  2. I can’t believe there isn’t already a standard protocol for warning labels – this looks like a major step forward.

  3. Good point Turdelle. Hopefully, most household cleaners do not contain truly dangerous chemicals for pets or humans.

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