Globally Harmonised System
The globally harmonised system for the classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS) is used internationally to standardise and harmonise the classification and labelling of chemicals.
In Queensland, hazardous chemical products (i.e. classified as a hazardous chemical under the Work Health and Safety legislation) that are being imported or manufactured must be labelled under the GHS unless a specific exemption applies. Regardless of any labelling exemptions, all hazardous chemical products must have a current safety data sheet that reflects GHS information.
The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 refers to the GHS labelling criteria in the schedules. This can be seen in:
- Schedule 6 – classification of mixtures
- Schedule 9 – classification, packaging and labelling requirements
- Schedule 11 – placarding and manifest
On this page
- What you need to know overview
- GHS pictograms and hazard classes
- Transitional arrangements
- GHS classification
- Supporting codes of practice
- More information
This information below provides you with an easy to understand summary of the GHS.
What is the GHS?
Why do we need it?
Who does it affect?
What are the changes?
Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
What do I need to do?
Who do I contact?
There are nine hazard pictograms in the GHS which represent the physical, health and environmental hazards.
Flame over circle
Skull and crossbones
Gases under pressure
Chronic Health hazard
Classification and labelling in accordance with the GHS has been mandatory since 1 January 2017.
The introduction of the GHS relates to classification and subsequent safety data sheet and label references only. Form and dimensions for placards required for package stores and tanks remain unchanged. Refer to Schedule 13 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 for the placarding requirements (i.e. form and dimensions).
Amendments to the WHS Regulation commenced on 9 December 2016 which clarify that:
- a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) who is an end user of a hazardous chemical can continue to use, store and handle non-GHS labelled hazardous chemicals manufactured or imported before 1 January 2017 and labelled in accordance with the NOHSC or the ADG Code
- duplicating information on a label is unnecessary where it is required by other labelling laws providing it does not decrease the level of protection or information in relation to the hazards of the chemical - refer to Appendix E precedence rules of label elements within the Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals Code of Practice 2011
- veterinary chemicals listed in Schedule 4 and 8 of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons are exempt from WHS labelling requirements when they are in a form intended for direct administration to animals for therapeutic purposes
- suppliers of hazardous chemicals can continue to supply non-GHS labelled hazardous chemicals manufactured or imported before 1 January 2017 provided the chemicals are labelled in accordance with the NOHSC or the ADG Code.
The GHS classification process uses defined criteria to identify the hazard(s) of a chemical or mixture by assigning a category of hazard/danger.
The GHS classes cover physical, health and environmental hazards. The GHS provides:
- definitions of health, physical and environmental hazards
- classification processes
- communication of hazard information and protective measures via labels and safety data sheets (SDS).
Physical hazards are largely based on the existing criteria used by the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulations (UNRTDG). The ADG Code for the safe transport of dangerous goods by road and rail in Australia is based on it.
You can access a copy of the ADG Code from the National Transport Commission.
To help you to understand the GHS, the UN has published Understanding the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) – A companion guide to the purple book (PDF, 904 kB) .
The following supporting codes of practice for labelling and SDS are now based on the GHS:
- Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals code of practice 2011 (PDF, 1375.36 KB)
- Preparation of safety data Sheets for hazardous chemicals code of practice 2011 (PDF, 1800.54 KB) .
For more information on hazardous chemicals and the GHS, visit the Safe Work Australia website.
A comparison of the GHS hazard classes and categories and the equivalent Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) code for placard and manifest quantities is provided in Hazardous chemicals – placard information and manifest quantities information (PDF, 242.18 KB) .
GHS resources include:
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
- Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals code of practice 2011(PDF, 1375.36 KB)
- Preparation of safety data Sheets for hazardous chemicals code of practice 2011(PDF, 1800.54 KB) .
Safe Work Australia
- Classification and labelling for workplace hazardous chemicals poster
- Hazardous chemical information list
- Last updated
- 16 January 2020
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