What is GHS and when will it be in use?


GHS is an acronym for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. This new naming and labeling system that is in the process of being implemented globally. It was developed by the United Nations and the transition to the new GHS system began in Canada in February of 2015 and will be fully implemented by December 1, 2018.

What is GHS and When Will it be in Use?

The GHS system was developed as a global unified system to classify chemicals and was designed to replace the different labeling and classification systems used throughout the world to create one single harmonized system. The GHS is systematically being introduced in many countries globally.

Canada is progressively implementing the GHS system and many manufacturers and importers have begun the changeover to GHS which you may notice on the chemicals you currently purchase The GHS, however, will not become mandatory until the 1st of December, 2018.

The GHS in Regards to Chemical Storage

Current standards (for the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids) state that storage cabinets require a Class 3 dangerous goods label with sides of at least 250mm nominal length. There is currently no plans for the GHS labels to be required on storage cabinets and the changeover to GHS labels only affects packaged dangerous goods & hazardous substances.

Westlab introduced the Modulab 4-IN-1 Dangerous Goods Cabinets in July 2015 with an initial plan to switch these cabinets to the new GHS labeling system. As the GHS changeover makes no reference to labels on storage cabinets, Modulab Systems have returned to the existing labeling system for their Dangerous Goods Cabinets until such a time when storage cabinets are acknowledged in the GHS changeover. Westlab will continue to monitor the progress of the GHS system in Canada and provide further updates when they become available.

More information on the GHS can be obtained from CCOHS. http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/ghs.html

What to Look For When Purchasing a Dangerous Goods Cabinet?

There are a lot of dangerous goods storage cabinets (DG cabinets) available in the market and it can be often be quite overwhelming when determining what type of cabinet you should purchase for your laboratory. There are a range of considerations to take into account prior to purchasing. To assist you with your decision making process, we’ve complied a list of items that should be considered and will help to streamline your decision.
• Compliance – First and foremost, you need to look for a cabinet that is fully compliant with Health Canada, in particular WHMIS which refers to the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. Compliance is extremely important, not only does it prevent potential injuries to workers, it also eliminates financial liability due to compliance.

• Non-Metal Cabinets – If you have decided to purchase a non-metal (polyethylene) cabinet, it is important to ensure that the cabinet is 100% non-metal in construction. We have seen many of times cabinets with metal components that corrode over time defeating the purpose of having a non-metal cabinet in the first place. Make sure it is 100% non-metal, this includes hinges, locks, screws etc.

• Venting – Venting is not normally required on DG cabinets but are sometimes required as a risk control measure when the cabinet is located in enclosed areas where extremely toxic or corrosive substances are being held. It is usually the end users responsibility to install the ventilation ducting but in order to do this, the cabinet must have prefitted venting bungs. Some suppliers will charge extra to provide a cabinet with venting bungs whilst others include as standard. It is worth confirming if ventilation is something that may be required either now or anytime in the future and ensure the cabinet you purchase accommodates this. Westlab’s 4-IN-1 cabinets, for example , come standard with venting bungs allowing for venting immediately or in future if required.
• Visual Component – Contrary to popular belief, there is no standard colours that a cabinet must adhere to. You will often see yellow for flammable, blue for corrosive etc. but you aren’t actually required to have specific colours for different types of dangerous goods. This gives you the flexibility to choose a cabinet that is more visually appealing
and blends in well with your laboratory.
• Delivery Charges – Cabinets are often expensive to ship, especially if you are in a remote area of Canada. To save on unexpected shipping charges, it is worth asking your potential supplier to include any delivery charges when you are obtaining a quote. This allows you to get a full cost upfront and helps when comparing suppliers. You may be
getting a cabinet at an economical price.

Hopefully these considerations will drastically reduce the decision making process. Choosing the right cabinet will ensure it stands the test of time and save money in the long run.


1. GHS Labels 20mm x 20mm: https://www.westlab.com/safety-and-cleaning/stickers-amp-signage/555-0050y-ghs-labels-20mm-x-20mm

2. GHS Labels 50mm x 50mm: https://www.westlab.com/safety-and-cleaning/stickers-amp-signage/555-0060y-ghs-labels-50mm-x-50mm

3. GHS Vynil Labels 250mm x 250mm: https://www.westlab.com/safety-and-cleaning/stickers-amp-signage/555-0070y-ghs-vinyl-self-adhesive-labels-250x250mm

4. GHS Posters: https://www.westlab.com/chemicals/charts/114-7022-ghs-poster

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