The Globally Harmonized System - A Synopsis
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) sought to unify existing methods of chemical hazard determination used throughout the world in 1992. The resulting mandate created the GHS or Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals which was formally adopted in December 2002.
This system provides a building block approach for countries to categorize chemicals by types of hazard and uses harmonized hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets. With a formal and consistent method in place, developing countries are now able to fully comply with established regulatory requirements and trade more freely with nations that have had long-standing compliance programs. While the goal of consistent hazard identification is clear, there are still enough differences in country by country implementation of GHS to necessitate multiple SDSs and labels for the same product.
The UN has also updated, revised and improved on the GHS every two years since implementation based on experience and feedback gained from member countries. The revisions require chemical manufacturers to stay current on changes in physical and chemical hazard categories as well as how these are communicated on SDSs and labels.