GHS is maintained by a sub-committee formed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, formally called the Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.  This sub-committee is a part of the Committee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (UNCETDG/GHS).


The Sub-Committee is tasked with the following responsibilities

  • Act as custodian of the system, managing, and giving direction to the harmonization process
  • Keep the system up-to-date, considering the need to introduce changes or updates to ensure its continued relevance
  • Promote understanding and use of the system, and encourage feedback
  • Make the system available for worldwide use
  • Make system application guidance available, and on the interpretation and use of technical criteria to support consistency of application
  • Prepare work programs and submit recommendations to the UNCETDG/GHS


The official GHS text, known as the “Purple Book” is updated every two years.  The latest version, the fifth revised edition, was released in 2013.   Although some countries that have adopted and implemented GHS are still on previous versions of the book, we recommend that companies be familiar with each edition so that they can update their procedures on handling chemicals and mixtures, and thus their SDSs, accordingly.


If a company or any of the company’s SDSs fail to comply with the GHS edition currently in use, the consequences can be dire.  It is therefore important that employers themselves make sure all SDSs are compliant with the most recent version of GHS, or outsource to a company (like Quantum) of experienced professionals that can update your MSDSs and SDSs quickly and painlessly.