Global Harmonization & Chemical Safety

Updated March 14, 2013

In the Spring of 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finalized an update of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard to adopt international Global Harmonization System criteria for:

  • classifying the hazards of chemicals and chemical products and mixtures
  • labeling of hazardous materials with standardized pictograms and standardized language to indicate hazards and precautions
  • conveying the hazard information on a standardized 16 section safety data sheet.


This web page contains links to information about these changes to the Hazard Communication Standard, and the regulatory timeline for implementing the changes.  The main impacts on MIT include:

  • a requirement to educate employees about the new label elements and safety data sheet format by December 1, 2013.
  • a requirement to update the hazard communication program,  such as replacing material safety data sheets for products in the workplace with new safety data sheets, by June 1, 2016.


One of the most visible changes is the adoption of international pictograms to convey hazards.   Recently purchased chemicals with these pictograms have already been observed in MIT research laboratories.  Under Attachments below is a link to a handout, adapted from the OSHA website, showing the pictograms with a brief explanation of the hazards they represent.  If you want to find out what the "star man" and the "explanation point" mean, click on the attachments link. You can help spread the information by printing and posting the handout.

Some useful links:

OSHA HAZCOM website, which includes frequently asked questions and links to additional information.

Labeling Information

Safety Data Sheet Information

Dates for implementation

Criteria for Health Hazard classifcation (Appendix A of standard)

Criteria for Physical Hazard classifcation (Appendix B of standard)

GHS_Pictograms_and_SDS_Summary_Handout__2-2013.docx255.83 KB