At the 5.3 million organizations exposed to hazardous chemicals in the U.S., managers in charge of safety, purchasing, facilities or operations must now ask if their chemical labels are GHS compliant.

The “Globally Harmonized System” (GHS) was established by the United Nations to create a unified system for identifying and communicating hazardous chemicals.  In the U.S., OSHA set a June 2015 deadline for chemical manufacturers to use GHS compliant labels, followed by a December 2015 deadline for distributors, and June 2016 deadline for end users.

Chemical manufacturers must re-classify their hazardous chemicals based on a common chemical classification system defined by GHS.  They must update their safety data sheets and use GHS-compliant labels to identify their hazardous chemicals.

Chemical importers and distributors, in turn, must ensure the hazardous chemicals they sell have GHS-compliant safety data sheets and GHS-compliant labels.

Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace, for their part, must ensure they have safety data sheets and labels for their exposed workers, and train them to handle the chemicals properly.

On each GHS label, six specific items of data are required:  Product Name or Identifier; Hazard Statement; Signal Word; GHS Pictogram symbols; Precautionary Statement; and

Supplier Information

In place of the familiar black and white pictogram symbols previously used in safety labeling, it is important for environmental health and safety (EHS) managers to realize that GHS labels now require pictogram symbols that convey hazard information with a red diamond border.

 Implementing GHS labeling can seem daunting, particularly to small and medium sized businesses, but it does not have to be.  While large organizations can hire integrators to automate GHS software with a bank of printers tied into high-end ERP infrastructure, small and medium sized businesses do not require this approach.

Instead of investing in costly dedicated printer/label/software systems, small to medium sized organizations are easing the transition to GHS label compliance.  More are turning to flexible, lower cost options that allow printing durable GHS labels on demand with existing laser printers and certain inkjet printers.

Unlike standard labels, industrial labels are used in harsh environments like warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and in the field so must be very durable and able to withstand exposure to chemicals, abrasion, tearing, moisture, sunlight, and extreme temperatures.

The challenge, however, is that to be GHS compliant, labels must stay reliably affixed without fading or becoming unreadable despite harsh indoor or outdoor conditions including international shipping.  This requires not only a durable label substrate but also a marine-grade adhesive.

“Staying GHS compliant will not only help organizations to avoid OSHA fines, sanctions, or auditing, but also will help them to open new global markets since GHS is a global standard,” says Glen Markham, Vice President of Business Development at, Inc., a chemical compliance and information specialist.

Markham notes that remaining GHS label compliant depends on the durability of the appropriate label substrate, getting the label content right, and effective document management.

To help small and medium sized organizations print GHS-compliant labels from their existing printers on demand, some companies provide label-printing software along with their labels.

In order to assist with transition, one of the leading label brands available on the market, Avery has just recently expanded into the industrial market and developed industrial-grade labels designed to be GHS compliant. The Avery Design & Print GHS Wizard makes it easy for employees to create and print their own GHS labels from pre-designed templates or to create them step-by-step on demand at their desk at no charge.  No download is required since the software operates from Avery’s website (, and GHS labels can be securely saved online or to a computer.  Besides GHS compliant labels, the software is also capable of printing other safety labels such as ANSI, OSHA, NFPA, and DOT labels.