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Answers to the Most Common Questions About the GHS

Updated: May 16

Here at Choice MedWaste, we’re committed to keeping our customers, as well as all healthcare providers, informed about proper medical waste disposal practices and procedures. Specializing in biohazard waste disposal in Philadelphia, PA, Delaware and Maryland, we recognize the importance of implementing the right regulations for your facility. If you don’t know about the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) or simply need a refresher, here are answers to the most common questions regarding this system:

  1. What exactly does GHS stand for?

GHS refers to the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication.

  1. What purpose does it serve?

The GHS is a series of guidelines designed to promote the safe production, transportation, handling, use and disposal of hazardous waste materials.

  1. Who developed it and why?

The GHS was created by the United Nations as a way of getting every country to implement similar chemical regulations and standards. By incorporating the principles of the GHS into their own chemical management systems, the UN intends to make the international sale and transportation of hazardous chemicals a less complicated process. In addition, it’s designed to make workplace conditions safer for those regularly exposed to dangerous chemical hazards.

  1. When did the United States start following these guidelines?

On March 26, 2012, the U.S. officially adopted the GHS. In fact, OSHA’s adoption actually involved a revision of the Hazard Communication Standard, so that it could agree with the regulations found in the GHS. OSHA refers to this revision as “HazCom 2012.”

  1. So every country has to abide by these regulations, right?

Wrong. The GHS is not a global law or regulation; instead, it should be viewed as a system, a set of recommendations or a compiled list of the best practices. Contrary to popular belief, no country is required to adopt all or even any aspect of the GHS recommendations.

  1. Okay, so it’s like an all or nothing approach, right? Like you either follow it or you don’t…

Countries can select which aspect of the GHS they want to factor into their own regulations; this is referred to as the “building block approach.” No matter which regulations they adopt, each adopting country is completely responsible for enforcing them within their areas of authority.

  1. How many countries have already adopted the GHS or are in the process of doing so?

Right now, there are more than 65 countries that have adopted GHS regulations or plan on implementing them in the near future.

  1. What are some of the most obvious changes that healthcare providers can expect after adjusting their practices and procedures according to GHS regulations?

The most obvious changes will have to do with safety labels, training chemical classifications and safety data sheets.

  1. Can you give an example?

While most American companies are used to referring to “material safety data sheets” as MSDSs, the GHS, on the other hand, uses SDS to describe “safety data sheets.” Moreover, the GHS has also standardized the content and formatting of SDS into 16 sections with rigorous ordering. The labels appear much different, as well—with six standardized components that include specific language according to each chemical classification.

  1. Which U.S. agencies control the adoption of GHS regulations?

  2. Department of Transportation (DOT)

  3. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  4. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

  5. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

  6. So if you could quickly summarize what the GHS is used for, how would it go?

The GHS is used to describe the health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals. It has developed a classification process that compares existing information on chemicals with the defined hazard criteria; this, in turn, allows the GHS to relate hazard information in a prescribed manner that is designed to be used uniformly on labels and safety data sheets.

Searching for medical waste disposal companies in Philadelphia, PA, Delaware or Maryland? Reach out to the experts at Choice MedWaste by filling out a contact form on their website, or by calling 302-766-7575.

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