Chemical Management – Impact of GHS Changes

The Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals has come into full effect across Australia as of 1 January 2017. The GHS is an international system to classify and communicate chemical hazards using consistent terms and information on chemical labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).


Both classifications and labelling will change in the following ways:

  • Signal words – There are now just two words to describe their hazard level – Danger or Warning
  • Hazard statement – The hazard statement communicates the chemical’s nature and severity. The language used is straightforward and familiar. For example, ‘Causes serious eye irritation’.
  • Precautionary statement – Precautionary statements recommend measures to avoid or minimise risks of chemical exposure. The precautionary statements relate specifically to prevention, response, storage and disposal.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) – The current Australian 16-header format will continue to apply.


Business Who Purchase, Use or Store Chemicals

For most businesses the changes when purchasing chemicals after 1 January 2017 will simply require them to:

  • Request a GHS compliant Safety Data Sheet from your supplier.
  • Ensure that chemicals are delivered with compliant labelling.
  • Ensure that workers know how to read and understand updated Safety Data Sheets and labels.

Manufacturers, Importers & Suppliers

These changes will however, have a significant impact on manufacturers, importers, and suppliers of hazardous chemicals. Australian work health and safety laws impose a duty on manufacturers and importers of chemicals supplied to a workplace to determine if a chemical is hazardous and to correctly classify and label the chemical according to the GHS. Safety data sheets must also comply with GHS requirements.

Suppliers may continue to supply stock they have on hand after 1 January 2017 providing it was manufactured or imported prior to this date and correctly labelled at that time. From 1 January 2017 suppliers should only accept stock with GHS compliant labels, and suppliers will also need to have GHS compliant SDS available from this date.