GHS Data

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) [1] was created by the United Nations to unify and replace diverse national systems for the regulation of chemicals. It has been adopted by the European Union and is in the process of adoption in most countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The new "GHS band" in RiskAssess

In Release 4 of RiskAssess, GHS data have been inserted for each pure chemical and each solution as a new "GHS band" between the two heading lines and the sections on "Potential hazards" and "Standard handling procedures".

From left to right, the GHS band provides:

Signal word          Pictograms        Hazard statements

GHS data are separated by a dotted line from RiskAssess advice on "Potential hazards" and "Standard handling procedures", which have both been updated in light of the new GHS information.

Chemical Labelling under the GHS

Using RiskAssess, you can print GHS-compliant labels (in 4 different sizes) for more than 1,000 pure chemicals and their common solutions. If you choose a solution, the words and pictograms are automatically calculated based on the concentration you enter. You can also create your own custom labels by selecting any signal word, pictograms and hazard statements that you wish. Read more about labelling...

How the GHS system works

The basis of the GHS system is the "Classification" of a chemical into categories and sub-categories according to the physical, health and environmental hazards that it may pose. Classification information is available from the manufacturer's safety data sheet (SDS), Safe Work Australia [2], the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) [3] and numerous other sources.

From the classification, GHS rules [1] uniquely define three key elements that must appear on the label and in the SDS of a chemical:

Signal Word

Either DANGER, or WARNING, or nothing.
This provides a simple three-level summary of hazardous properties.


Compressed gas
Health hazard
Environmentally damaging

These nine pictograms are used to provide rapid visual representation of the hazardous properties of a chemical. A chemical may have no pictogram, one pictogram or several pictograms.

Hazard statements

Detailed information about hazardous properties are provided in hazard statements (Annex 3, [3]), usually in the order: physical hazards, health hazards, environmental hazards. For example, a chemical may have hazard statements:

  • Highly flammable liquid and vapour
  • Toxic if inhaled
  • Causes severe skin burns and eye damage
  • Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects

The first statement describes the physical hazard, the second and third describe the health hazards, and the last statement describes the environmental hazard. There may be any number of hazard statements of each type.

In addition to the signal word, pictograms and hazard statements, the original manufacturer's label and the safety data sheet (SDS) must contain "Precautionary statements" (Annex 3, [3]) that again follow uniquely from the classification of the chemical. Many of the precautionary statements are not appropriate to the school situation. To better assist users, RiskAssess provides information about "Potential Hazards" and "Standard Handling Procedures" for each chemical. These are tailored to the school situation, based on chemical experience and authoritative sources.

GHS data for solutions

RiskAssess provides GHS data for concentration ranges of aqueous chemical solutions based on experimental data when available, or based on the GHS rules for mixtures [1], when data are not available. A solution is regarded as a mixture with water as an inert diluent. See GHS solution data for full details of the process followed.

RiskAssess converts the GHS solution data defined in % wt/wt to molarity, since this is the unit most commonly used in schools.

Variations between SDSs and updates

For the same chemical, there are often differences between the classifications notified to ECHA [3], leading to different hazard statements on labels and in SDSs according to different manufacturers. RiskAssess uses the most common classification according to ECHA; if there is any doubt, the more conservative classification is used. As further information becomes available in the ECHA database, the GHS data will be updated in RiskAssess.

Risk assessments in Release 4

All new risk assessments you create will automatically include GHS data for chemicals.

Any risk assessment you have created previously will still be accessible in the original format, but will show a notice at the top that it was created before GHS data were introduced into RiskAssess.

When you next update (Author's update) or copy (Create Modifiable Copy) an old risk assessment, RiskAssess will automatically add GHS data for the chemicals and solutions included in the risk assessment. However, in cases where a chemical in the previous risk assessment corresponds to more than one chemical in the new system, RiskAssess cannot automatically choose a direct match. RiskAssess will show you the possible matches and let you choose the right one. You will only need to do this once for each risk assessment created before the GHS data were introduced, provided you make further modifiable copies or author updates from the converted risk assessment.


[1] United Nations "Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)" 8th ed., 2019.

[2] Safe Work Australia "Hazardous Substances Information System"

[3] European Chemicals Agency "Classification and Labelling Inventory"