Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Globally Harmonized System (GHS)


The purpose of the WAC 296-901, Hazard Communication is to ensure that the potential hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are classified, and that information concerning the classified hazards is transmitted to employers and employees. WSU employers communicating information concerning potential hazards and appropriate protective measures to employees shall include, for example, but not be limited to:

  • Developing and maintaining a written hazard communication program for the workplace, including lists of hazardous chemicals present;
  • Labeling of containers of chemical in the workplace, as well as of containers of chemicals being shipped to other workplaces;
  • Preparation and distribution of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) to employees and downstream employers; and
  • Development and implementation of employee training programs regarding hazards of chemicals and protective measures.

The major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard as reult of alignment with GHS include:

  • Hazard Classification providing specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as the classification of mixtures.
  • More standardized labels that feature hazard pictograms; a signal word such as “Danger”; hazard statement for each hazard class and category, including precautionary statements; a product identifier and a supplier identifier.
  • Safety Data Sheets that a follow a standardized 16-section format to replace Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs).

Although content details on labels on labels and SDSs are affected by the GHS, many of the current requirements are not changing. For example, requirements to distribute SDSs, label workplace containers and train employees remain the same.

You may read or hear people saying things like: “Are you following GHS?” or “The new GHS law is here” or “Is that label GHS compliant?”  In reality, we don’t really “follow” GHS because it isn’t a law. In these statements, we are actually talking about following the Hazard Communication Standard which has incorporated GHS provisions. As shorthand or generalities, these statements are acceptable but the purpose of the information in this section is to help you understand what GHS is and how you will encounter it at work in the chemicals you use.

Every employee that handles hazardous chemicals should be familiar with the information in this section. Please contact EH&S at 335-3041 if you would like to schedule a training session.

A Powerpoint training presentation on Hazard Communication and GHS has been developed by EH&S and is available on the EH&S Training Courses webpage.

The Hazard Communication Standard applies primarily to non-laboratory workplaces at WSU. Laboratories have limited coverage under the rule as described in WAC 296-901-14004. Labs must follow the Hazardous Chemicals in Labs rule, WAC 296-828.