Next Steps in GHS by Rob Velez

Now that the December 1, 2013 training deadline for the integration of the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard has passed and nearly 4,000 laboratory personnel having been successfully trained in accordance with OSHA’s revised standard, it is time to focus attention on implementation. 
You will recall from your GHS training that all chemicals in the laboratory must be properly labeled. Already, chemical manufacturer’s labels are increasingly featuring GHS pictograms and hazard statements on new chemical containers. However, at this time your laboratory’s existing chemical containers are not required to reflect the new GHS labeling standard provided they have retained their original label and are readily legible.

New and existing secondary or process containers (e.g., squeeze bottles, spray bottles, flasks, bottles, tubes, etc.) should be labeled with information consistent with GHS requirements, to ensure the safety of all laboratory personnel and emergency responders. Laboratory personnel should review the laboratory’s chemical inventory, as well as secondary and process containers, to verify that labeling is consistent with GHS requirements.   

Columbia University’s subscription to Chemwatch, which is accessible to University personnel with a computer on the Columbia network, contains tens of thousands of GHS compliant Safety Data Sheets and can generate GHS compliant container labels for use in the laboratory. Chemwatch can create custom GHS labels for hazardous chemical mixtures.  To view the GHS label generator tutorial visit:

To access Chemwatch, go to the EH&S home page ( and select “Safety Data Sheet (SDS),” under “Emergency Response” (bottom left). On the Safety Data Sheets page, select “Safety Data Sheet (SDS) online search.” This will take you to the Chemwatch (Gold FFX) page.

sds chemWatch

To create a label using Chemwatch

  1. Select “Materials” at the top left.
  2. Select “Labels” in the “(M)SDS and Labels” section below the search window.
  3. Type in the name of your chemical in the “Search Panel” and select “Full” to the left of the search button, then click “Search”.
  4. Click on the chemical you want from the search results.
  5. Select a GHS label template when prompted and click “OK.” Note, there are several GHS label formats available, even conical labels for flasks, so choose the one that best suits your labeling needs.
  6. Load your printer with the appropriate label paper (e.g. Avery adhesive labels).
  7. Click “Print” from the toolbar on the top right, then select the printer icon, locate your printer and voila.

Finally, please keep in mind the following note about shipping of chemicals. Under the GHS standard, any hazardous chemicals that a laboratory ships, whether to a collaborator on another Columbia campus or at another institution, to an off-campus field research location or an off-site, permitted storage facility, must be labeled in accordance with GHS since the shipper would be considered a manufacturer or distributor in such cases. In addition, USDOT and/or IATA rules would apply for packaging requirements and package markings. While this can be confusing, EH&S is available to assist your laboratory in meeting these regulations to ensure a safe and compliant shipment. See for hazardous materials shipping information.

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