GHS chemical labels & classification: Changes in version 7

Many countries are aligning with version 7. But what is it exactly and what does it mean for GHS chemical labels and classification around the world?

Laura Voikar

by Laura Voikar

Luck has nothing to do with this number 7.
The 7th version of Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS 7) has been on a long path to adoption since first being published in 2017. While some regions are well on their way to implementing the changes to GHS chemical labels and classification, others have yet to finalize the proposal’s adoption.
Depending on your company’s operating countries, you might have changes to make now to align with GHS 7 – or could even change the course of its adoption. (Read about key dates and other developments in the US and Canada as well as in Australia and New Zealand.)
Below we outline what’s new in version 7.

What’s GHS?

GHS is an international hazard classification system for chemicals created by the United Nations.
The system aims to protect human health and the environment during chemicals’ handling, transport, and use by ensuring that information on the substances’ physical hazards and toxicity is available. As a UN initiative, the GHS aims to harmonize rules and regulations on chemicals on the national, regional, and worldwide levels.

What’s new in version 7?

In the 7th revised edition, main changes for GHS chemical labels and classification include:

  1. New hazard categories and classes for:
  • desensitized explosives,
  • pyrophoric gases,
  • chemically unstable gases, and
  • non-flammable aerosols.
  1. Updated precautionary statements (e.g., For some explosives, it will be necessary to add P503 “Refer to manufacturer/supplier/… for information on disposal/recovery/recycling”),
  2. A clarified definition of hazardous chemicals to ensure all Category 2 eye irritants (i.e., irritating or mildly irritating to eyes) are captured, and
  3. A new example of what information needs to appear on fold-out labels for small containers.

It’s not over yet: Awaiting GHS 7 – and anticipating what’s next.

Just as companies get a handle on GHS 7 changes, version 8 and its amendments are coming on their heels. While the GHS 8 was only recently published in 2019, businesses should keep an eye out for another round of proposed changes to GHS chemical labels and classification in the future.

As chemicals and their use continue to evolve, so do requirements for staying legally compliant. Get updates on impactful regulatory developments in chemical management and other EHS issues with more insights from our global experts.

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