Workplace safety signs are a crucial part of keeping you and your team safe around hazardous chemicals.
We’re talking about things like:
Each of these signs (and more) are must-haves if you deal with hazardous chemicals.
Here’s a type of sign you might not have heard of: GHS signs.
The push for global harmonisation
If you’re a keen follower of changes in workplace safety regulations like we are (which you should be if you work with hazardous chemicals on a regular basis), you’ll know there’s been a HUGE push towards harmonisation in recent years.
Where each Australian state and territory used to have its own independent OHS and WHS laws, they’re now in lock-step, only making additions or changes that each one agrees with, ensuring consistency no matter which part of the country you’re in.
And it isn’t just happening in Australia, either.
There are few things most countries will agree on (just look at the world news section of your morning newspaper).
One of the few things they do unanimously agree on is the need for globally recognised standards when it comes to shipping, storing and making signs for hazardous chemicals.
With that in mind, it was only a matter of time until countries decided to lay down some rules that all of them could agree with:
We’re getting there – as you can see however, there’s still some ways to go before we have true global standardisation!
With initiatives like GHS however, we’re getting closer…
More than just signs
GHS is more than just GHS signs – that’s the reason it’s called a system.
On top of ensuring that all countries use the same signs, GHS also sets out to ensure that the whole system around the storage, transport and identification of hazardous chemicals is not just consistent, but also follows the same philosophy.
It’s a lot to take in, so we’re going to break it down piece by piece, starting with the most visible form of GHS…
What are GHS signs?
Standing for Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, GHS is a globally-recognised system for grouping and classifying substances and chemicals by the hazards that they pose.
Designed in 1992, GHS signs have been mandatory alongside hazchem signs, emergency information panels (EIPS) and dangerous goods labels since 2017 (with the exception of businesses in WA, who only need to use them if they ship to other states).
GHS signs outline the risks and hazards that a substance poses, using pictographs to identify several different types of hazard:
- Toxic health hazards
- Flammable substances
- Compressed gases
- Environmental hazards
GHS labels are direct and to the point. No need to look up a hazchem code, or flip through a book of class diamonds to see what type of risk the substance presents. What you see is what you get – the perfect outcome for signs that will need to be recognised the world over.
Safety data sheets
On top of the GHS signs themselves, GHS also mandates that workplaces that deal with hazardous chemicals also provide safety data sheets (SDS for short).
SDS are documents created by manufacturers of hazardous chemicals that play a crucial part of the safety equation. These documents outline everything there is to know about a substance, including:
- Makeup and composition
- The risks posed
- Proper handling procedure
- What to do in the event of a spill
Armed with this information, recipients can take measures to protect themselves.
Australian laws already mandate SDS for hazardous chemicals, so manufacturers down here probably won’t see much change.
All they’ll have to do to stay compliant is update their SDS to include GHS standard labelling and classifications in addition to the current hazchem information.
Instead, this requirement is targeted towards places where SDS aren’t already mandatory.
Signal words and hazard statements
The problem with words is that people can often have a different interpretation of them.
For example, what do you call the bottom level of a building? Here and in the US, we call it the first floor, with the next one being the second floor and so on. In the UK however, they call it the ground floor, with the first floor being the next one up.
That’s just one way words can fail at getting the message across.
Because of this, GHS sets out specific signal words and hazard statements to use in relation to hazardous chemicals. These words are carefully chosen to be straightforward, familiar and broad.
This way, the hazards will immediately be understood!
Using GHS labels alongside hazchem signs, emergency information panels and dangerous goods labels
There’s no such thing as “too many” workplace safety signs. People’s lives and health are on the line – the more signs you can use to get the message across, the better!
Since GHS signs became mandatory back in 2017, businesses have used GHS labels alongside all sorts of other workplace safety signs.
While they’re all here to keep your workplace safe, GHS signs and other workplace safety signs use different pictographs, words and colours to get their message across.
Say for example you see an environmental hazard GHS label.
You may not know what type of environmental hazard this specific substance poses like a UN number might tell you – however, you do know that it’s probably a bad idea to wash the substance down the drain, or pour it out behind your workplace!
For more detailed information however, an emergency information panel can help you find out what you need to do.
That’s just one way these different types of workplace safety signs can complement each other.
For a better idea of the difference between GHS labels and other workplace safety signs like hazchem signs, dangerous goods labels and EIPs, click here.
Keep your team safe with workplace safety signs
Signs are the first line of defense when it comes to keeping your team safe around hazardous chemicals. Ensure that the line is strong by choosing one of Signsmart’s workplace safety signs.
With a huge range of premade workplace safety signs that are ready to ship – including GHS signs and labels – we can ensure that you don’t need to wait long for the signs you need.
Whether it’s GHS labels, hazchem signs, emergency information panels or any other type of sign, you can trust us to get it to you quickly.
Ordering is simple – just browse our online sign shop, add the signs you need to your cart and checkout. We’ll do the rest, getting your sign to you by the next day in some cases.