Need to create GHS labels? ScanSource can help.

by Ken Campbell on March 20, 2014 · 0 comments

in AIDC,Barcode Printing,ScanSource POS & Barcode,Technology

Epson SeagullScientific

GHS (Globally Harmonized System), created by the United Nations, is designed to standardize the classification and labeling of chemicals worldwide.  While most countries have a regulatory system in place for the handling and transportation of chemicals, historically there has been a lack of consistency on how these regulations were implemented.  GHS is designed to bring worldwide regulatory consistency in how chemicals are classified and labeled and will impact anyone who produces, sells, transports, or purchases chemical products.

Four Primary Goals of GHS

  • Standard, internationally understandable system for communicating the hazards of chemicals
  • Create a framework for developing countries without an existing regulatory system
  • Facilitate trade by providing an international framework
  • Reduce the need for redundant testing

There are two primary elements to GHS:

  • The classification of chemicals hazards
  • Communication of chemicals hazards using Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and labels


While GHS does provide a regulatory framework, it is up to individual countries to implement GHS. In the United States, that process is overseen by OSHA.  OSHA’s first critical deadline for compliance has already arrived.  As of December 1, 2013, companies need to have trained their employees on the new SDS and labels formats.

A second deadline looms.  June 1, 2015 companies need to start shipping with new, GHS-compliant SDS and labels.  This is where it starts to get tricky.  The GHS-compliant labels now require color. Specifically the boxes around the hazard pictograms must be red.  In many cases the decision is being made to have the signal words of Warning and Danger also in red.ghs-compliance-1

I had a conversation with Elizabeth Sinclair, Manager, Vertical Markets for Seagull Scientific.  Ms. Sinclair came to Seagull by way of the chemical industry and when she asked her industry contacts what the main pain point is with GHS compliance the answer was universal.  Color Printing.

Color Printing Requirement

All labels must contain pictograms that quickly convey health, physical or environmental hazards associated with the chemical inside the container, drum, vessel, etc.  These pictograms will be housed in a red diamond.  The number of pictograms range from one to five, and the label can contain no empty boxes.

Options for Color GHS Labels

What does this mean for our customers? They are now required to include a variable number of red diamonds on their labels. At a high level, there are three choices available to them.

Preprinted Label Stock

At some point maintaining preprinted labels just gets out of hand.Just buy label stock with the red diamonds preprinted and keep using the same monochrome printer they’ve been using for years.  For many customers this is an attractive solution.  It feels like the path of least resistance.  For smaller customers, with a very limited number of potential label combinations, this could be a viable solution.  However, for most, the need to maintain multiple preprinted labels and the hassle of continually matching the label to the print job make this alternative less and less attractive.

Hazard Labels Only

An offshoot of using preprinted labels is to just buy preprinted hazard pictograms and place them on the printed monochrome label.  This could potentially be used as a stop gap measure by a customer who hasn’t come up with a permanent solution, but the potential for human error and the time involved manually attaching hazard pictograms does not make this a viable alternative.  However, I was surprised that it seemed to be the route certain customers are taking.  The liability implications alone should be enough to convince even the most stubborn end-user that this is not the solution.

Color Label Printing

That leaves color label printing, which seems to be the direction customers serious about GHS compliance are heading.  The problem is it takes everyone out of their comfort zones.  We are all familiar with our monochrome label printers.  They’re our go-to solution for variable on-demand labels.

GHS compliance is forcing us to branch out and look for new solutions that support color printing. As it turns out there are numerous options, some from vendors you already know and trust.

British Maritime Standard – BS 5609

Please note, GHS does have label material requirements.   Labels must meet the British Maritime Standard – BS 5609, which means the label, adhesive and what is printed need to stand up to three months immersed in seawater.

Complete Solution

ghs-compliance-3While the transition to GHS-compliant labels can be painful, ScanSource POS and Barcode does have a couple of vendors that work in conjunction to provide a complete solution.

Seagull Scientific BarTender

All solutions start with software.  Seagull has a complete printing solution for GHS.  BarTender ships with 2 premade GHS label formats and even a sample database.  BarTender also supports all leading label printers, including color ones.  For an idea of how easy BarTender can make printing GHS compliant labels, take a look at their White Paper on GHS Compliance Labeling.

Epson ColorWorks line of Color Label Printers

Epson has a long history with color receipt printing and has recently taken that experience and created the ColorWorks line of color label printers.  The C3500 and C831 are perfect for a wide range of verticals, including printing GHS-compliant labels.  Epson’s advanced DURABrite® pigment inks deliver outstanding stability and resistance to water, chemicals, fading and smudging, meeting the British Maritime Standard – BS 5609.

This post was written by

Ken Campbell has worn several different hats since he started with ScanSource Tech Services in July 2000. Currently his primary responsibility is creating educational materials and providing training for ScanSource resellers.

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