All About GHS Chemical Labeling

Posted on May 3, 2011

All About GHS Chemical Labeling

What is GHS Labeling?

For many chemical manufacturers, there are questions surrounding the new standard of chemical labeling that has already become mandatory in Europe and Asia  and is soon to be adopted worldwide. The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is required to be followed by chemical manufacturers, packagers, and transporters.

This new system was the result of a worldwide agreement that, in order to avoid risks to human health and the environment, chemicals should be classified and labeled in a way that can be universally understood. GHS replaces the many national and regional standards that previously prevailed.

The new GHS system is a very rigorous standard that is going to require chemical manufactures to re-label and re-document all of their chemical products before the deadline date set for the countries they sell to. This re-documentation applies to product labels (including shipping labels on cartons and packages) and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Both have to comply with the new GHS warning symbols, color codes, product identifiers, numbers, hazard statements, and precautionary statements.

What is the Deadline Date for GHS Labeling Compliance?

GHS standards are already implemented for the Transport of Hazardous Goods in most nations throughout the world. Additional classes of chemicals have been implemented or will be implemented over time:

  • Asia and Pacific Rim:
    2008 – 2012: Full compliance for any chemical product shipped to or within Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and others
  • Europe:
    December 1, 2010: (any pure chemical products shipped to or within any nation in the EU)
    December 1, 2012:
    Transition Period for Pure Substances which are Manufactured and “On-the-Shelf” Before 1 December 2010 (grace period, allows use of labels that do not meet GHS standards)
    June 1, 2015:
    Europe– any admixture of chemicals shipped to or within any nation in the EU
  • USA ,Canada:


Required GHS Label Elements

Under GHS regulations labels are required to have the following information on each chemical product label:

  • Product Identifier – the ingredient name or number of the pure chemical substance or chemical mixture. The Product Identifier is meant to prevent a worker, shipper, or supply chain partner from accidental or uninformed exposure.


  • GHS Pictograms (Diamond-shaped symbols) – The diamonds appear in the colors red, black, and white. Each color conveys information about hazardous risks associated with that particular chemical. The pictogram collaborates with Signal Words like “Danger” or “Warning”, the pictogram conveys the severity of the risk and is meant to prevent accidental or uninformed exposure. The size of the pictogram should be proportional to the dimensions of the label.


  • Signal Words- Specific words are used to indicate the severity of the hazard and alert the reader of potential hazard. For example the Signal Word “Warning” and the number “1” indicate less-severe or non-lethal hazard while the Signal Word “Danger” and the number “2” indicate severe of potentially lethal hazard.


  • Hazard Statements – These are phrases that describe the nature and degree of the hazard posed by the chemical. Hazard statements should be included on labels of substances/mixtures possessing more than one hazard. “Heating may cause an explosion” is an example.


  • Precautionary Statements- Statements that describe measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent risks associated with the hazard. The maximum number of precautionary statements is six. “Keep away from heat/sparks/open flames/ hot surfaces – no smoking” is an example of a Precautionary Statement that would coincide with a pictogram that shows Explosive Danger.

  • Supplier Information – Each chemical container, including secondary packaging (crates, master cases, etc.) must include a GHS label printed with the Supplier Information which includes: name, address, and telephone number.


  • Supplementary Information – this is considered to be additional product information volunteered by the manufacturer, supplier, or other responsible party. Manufacturers are allowed to make statements that are not harmonized with GHS standards but the statement must not conflict with GHS standards.


Costs of Labeling Chemicals Under GHS

Unfortunately, the chemical industry will be required to tolerate added costs of re-packaging their own chemical products.

However, there will be benefits though to being so tolerant. It will be much simpler to import and export chemical products to foreign markets with harmonized labeling standards. You will no longer have to worry about jumping documentation hurdles and testing and environmental standards. Financially, taking on the costs of GHS labeling will be made up for by ongoing time savings and cost savings for manufacturing, packaging, and shipping activities.


How to Comply with GHS Label Requirements – Printing GHS Labels On-Demand, In-House

Because each chemical substance must be labeled with a unique Product Identifier, pictogram, signal word, hazard statement, precautionary statement, and supplier information, GHS label printing lends itself to digital label printing technology.

When labels are digitally printed on-the-fly with all GHS required content, label volumes and inventories will remain low, and it is simpler to accurately apply the right label to the right product.

There are 3 options for printing GHS labels as part of an in-house digital label printing process.

1. Printing labels with a barcode printer to print pictograms, signal words, manufacturer address and other text in one color: black. The portion of the label that requires color (GHS pictogram or company logo) is pre-printed onto a roll of labels.

2. Printing labels with a 2-color label printer provides manufacturers with the flexibility to make durable, color-fast labels with different GHS label content, in different label sizes, according to your production demand. Digital printing allows manufacturers to change any label content at anytime such as different chemical substances, container sizes, size of pictograms, etc.

3. Printing labels with a full-color label printer is the most flexible way to print GHS labels in-house, especially while integrating with GHS standards expected to be met globally by 2015. A four-color label printer can satisfy both GHS and private or custom labeling requirements at the same time. Full-color label printers typically offer a wider printable area, allowing manufacturers to print labels up to the maximum label size required under GHS regulations.

What are the GHS label size requirements?

For container capacities of 3.17 quarts or less the required GHS label dimensions are 2.04” x 2.91”. Containers with capacities of 3.17 gallons to 12.2 gallons required GHS label dimensions are 2.91” x 4.133”. Capacities of 13.2 gallons to 132 gallons required GHS label dimensions are 4.133” x 5.82”. Containers with capacities of 132 gallons or more are required to bare labels 5.82” x 8.26”.

GHS Compliant Label Materials

GHS labels must be chemical-resistant, abrasion-resistant, UV light resistant, weather-resistant, and must utilize a marine-grade label adhesive in order to satisfy GHS label standards for permanence. QuickLabel sells several compliant GHS label stocks. We will give you a GHS label quote in any label size.


More Resources about GHS Labeling:

QuickLabel White Paper: Guide to GHS Chemical Labeling Compliance

UN Guide to GHS Implementation in Each Country


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