Using the GHS

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) classifies chemicals by types of hazard. It helps you communicate information about hazardous chemicals on labels and safety data sheets. 

The United Nations created GHS to be a single, global method to: 

  • classify chemicals 

  • communicate chemical hazards through labels and safety data sheets (SDS). 

GHS pictograms for hazards 

The GHS has 9 pictograms that represent the physical, health and environmental hazards of chemicals. 

You can download them and Dangerous Goods class Labels from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

GHS01—Exploding bomb
Explosion, fire, blast or projection hazard.

GHS02—Flame
Flammable liquids, vapour, solids and gases; including self-heating and self-igniting substances.

GHS03—Flame over circle
Oxidising liquids, solids and gases, may cause or intensify fire.

GHS04—Gas cylinder
Gases under pressure.

GHS05—Corrosion
Corrosive chemicals, may cause severe skin and eye damage and may be corrosive to metals

GHS06—Skull and crossbones
Fatal or toxic if swallowed, inhaled or in contact with skin.

GHS07—Exclamation mark
Low level toxicity. This includes respiratory, skin, and eye irritation, skin sensitisers and chemicals harmful if swallowed, inhaled or in contact with skin.

GHS08—Health Hazard
Chronic health hazards; this includes aspiratory and respiratory hazards, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity and reproductive toxicity. 

GHS09—Environment 
Hazardous to aquatic life and the environment. 

 

GHS signal words 

GHS signal words on chemical labels are: 

  • Danger – for chemicals with more severe or significant hazards 

  • Warning – for chemicals with less severe hazards. 

GHS hazard statements 

GHS classes and categories have certain statements to describe a hazard’s nature. For example, ‘Toxic if swallowed’ is a hazard statement for Acute Toxicity (Ingestion) Category 3. 

The Classification and labelling for workplace hazardous chemicals poster has information about hazard statements and their classes. 

GHS precautionary statements 

Precautionary statements explain how to use and store chemicals safely. They have information about: 

  • how to prevent emergencies 

  • how to respond to emergencies  

  • how to store the chemical 

  • how to dispose of the chemical.

Supporting information