GHS Chemical Label Compliance for Schools & Colleges

GHS labels for schools

Working with chemicals in schools & colleges

All chemicals in use in laboratories throughout the UK must be labelled in compliance with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) Regulations. Schools and colleges are no exception and it is their responsibility to ensure that the chemical labels, throughout their institution, are in compliance – whether it is labels on bottles and jars in the chemistry lab, or spray bottles containing decanted cleaning substances. This applies to both public and private schools.

All school administrators should understand the GHS, Globally Harmonised System and know that the regulations were established by the UN to create a unified system for identifying chemicals, and communicating their hazards, in order to keep facilities and their employees safe.

The GHS/CLP regulation

The Globally Harmonised System (GHS) – is a United Nations initiative to create a universal chemical classification system. It was set up to standardise all of the physical, environmental, and health and safety information on hazardous chemical substances and mixtures.

The GHS standard encompasses the classification of chemicals, the identification of hazardous chemicals and ensures that chemical hazard information is communicated in a consistent way using standardised labels and safety data sheets (SDS).  It also sets requirements for the packaging and transportation of hazardous chemicals. End users are informed of the hazards of chemicals through standard symbols and phrases.

GHS is implemented in the EU through the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures regulations – CLP.  The CLP Regulation replaced the previous Chemical Hazard  Information and Packaging (CHIP) Regulations which saw the black symbols on orange squares, orange squares have been replaced with GHS pictograms that have black symbols in red bordered diamonds.


Each GHS pictogram symbolises a potential hazard. They inform of the dangers of certain chemicals and help users take precautions.

GHS01 Explosive


  • Explosives
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxides

Explosive old symbol: Obsolete symbol

GHS02 Flammable


  • Flammables
  • Pyrophorics
  • Self-Heating
  • Emits Flammable Gas
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxide

FLAMMABLE: Obsolete symbol

GHS03 OxidiZing


  • Oxidizers

OXIDIZING: Obsolete symbol

GHS04 gas under pressure

Contains gas under pressure

  • Gases Under Pressure

GHS05 Corrosive


  • Skin Corrosion/Burns
  • Eye Damage
  • Corrosive to Metals

CORROSIVE: Obsolete symbol

GHS06 Acute Toxicity

acute toxicity

  • Acute Toxicity (fatal or toxic)

toxic: Obsolete symbol

GHS07 Health Hazard/Harmful to the Ozone Layer

Health Hazard

  • Irritant (skin and eye)
  • Skin Sensitizer
  • Acute Toxicity
  • Narcotic Effects
  • Respiratory Tract Irritant
  • Hazardous to Ozone Layer

GHS08 Serious Health Hazard

Serious Health Hazard

  • Carcinogen
  • Mutagenicity
  • Reproductive Toxicity
  • Respiratory Sensitizer
  • Target Organ Toxicity
  • Aspiration Toxicity

irritanttoxic: Obsolete symbols

GHS09 Hazardous to the Environment

Hazardous to the Environment

  • Aquatic Toxicity

Tips for ensuring GHS compliance

  • Labels:  On each GHS label, six items of data are required:  Product Name or Identifier; Signal Word; GHS Pictogram symbol(s); Hazard Statements; Precautionary Statements; and Supplier Information. If the product is a mixture of substances, the chemical identities of all dangerous substances should be included.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) -The word ‘material’ has been removed and these are now known simply as Safety Data Sheets. They must include 16 set headings;
    1. Identification
    2. Hazard(s) identification
    3. Composition/information on ingredients
    4. First-aid measures
    5. Fire-fighting measures
    6. Accidental release measures
    7. Handling and storage
    8. Exposure controls/personal protection
    9. Physical and chemical properties
    10. Stability and reactivity
    11. Toxicological information
    12. Ecological information
    13. Disposal considerations
    14. Transport information
    15. Regulatory information
    16. Other information

Full details are available on the UNECE website.

  • Employee Training. Schools are required to train employees on the GHS regulations, especially on how to read Safety Data Sheets and chemical labels. Employees should have a strong understanding of the GHS pictograms and be able to explain what each one means.
  • Label all secondary containers.  If a chemical is supplied to the school with a GHS label, it must be maintained.  If the chemical is transferred to a secondary container, such as a tank or spray bottle that stays in the workplace, it must be labelled with information from the original GHS shipping label or safety data sheet. This also applies to cleaning products – because a large volume of cleaning products are used to maintain schools and colleges, some of the chemicals are purchased in bulk and decanted into smaller containers – these must be properly labelled to GHS requirements.
  • The easiest way to ensure GHS compliance is to have good chemical management practices already in place;
    1. Do a stock take of ALL of your chemical stock. This will give you an idea of what may need new labels and safety data sheets.
    2. Identify and decide what to do with inactive or unwanted chemicals (e.g. disposal through a licensed waste contractor).
    3. Check that your supplier is GHS compliant.
    4. Ensure all labels and Safety Data Sheets are up tp date – all hazardous chemicals, old and new, require a GHS compliant SDS. Contact the manufacturer/supplier for one for each new chemical.
    5. Transferred, decanted/diluted chemicals must be relabelled in GHS format.
    6. Ensure staff and students are trained and you communicate GHS changes across the school/college. Schedule awareness/refresher training and make sure new staff/students are trained as well.
    7. Update your chemical documentation to reflect GHS changes including your hazardous chemical register and Emergency Response Plan.


HOW CAN hibiscus HELP?

In order to be GHS compliant, your labels must also meet the rugged GHS commercial requirements. To be GHS compliant, labels must stay reliably affixed without fading or becoming unreadable despite harsh indoor or outdoor conditions including exposure to chemicals, moisture, and spills.

Hibiscus labels are specifically designed to meet rigorous GHS requirements and they are chemical resistant, tear resistant, abrasion resistant, and constructed with a waterproof marine-grade adhesive that passes the 90-day seawater submersion adhesion test.  Hibiscus GHS labels are available in a wide range of sizes to fit drums, bottles, small containers and Intermediary Bulk Containers (IBCs). They can be applied to a variety of surfaces such as metal, plastic, glass, ceramic, polycarbonate, painted surfaces, and they resist water, scuffing, tearing and smudging, making them ideal for tough, humid, or wet environments.

Labels convey important safety information to end users and others who are potentially at risk if chemicals are not used correctly and so it is vital that they are in compliance. Keep in mind, that GHS regulations are updated at regular intervals. Hibiscus is a label provider that can advise school and college administrators of these changes and keep them up to date with the latest legislation.

Contact us for details and quotations on 0113 242 4272.

Buy individual GHS PICTOGRAM LABELS directly online at Stock-Xpress.