This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

GHS in the USA: Effects of Pictograms, Signal Words, and Performance Based Qualifiers on Hazard Communication




Boelhouwer, Eric

Type of Degree



Industrial and Systems Engineering


Three studies were conducted to better understand the effects of the use of signal words, pictograms, and performance based qualifiers test used in the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This research improves the understanding of the following concepts: 1) the use of signal words and pictograms on Safety Data Sheets (SDS), 2) the presence of hazard and precautionary pictograms on GHS product labels, 3) the use of performance based qualifiers in GHS hazard and precautionary phrases, 4) the effects of signal words and pictograms on an individual’s perceived risk. The presence of signal words and pictograms on SDS suggests these items may provide potential benefits to users by improving the accuracy of their responses to survey items for physical hazards, but not the potential health hazards in this study. The presence of precautionary pictograms was significant in one of the two trials. Professionals correctly responded to a higher percentage of the survey items as compared to naïve users. The results also suggest there may be a speed versus accuracy tradeoff with the professionals taking longer to respond and correctly responding to a higher percentage of the survey items and the naïve users. The presence of pictograms may also reduce the time to respond to the survey items by assisting users to find information more quickly. The label study suggests the presence of the precautionary pictograms may lead to improved accuracy to the survey items and to an increase in perceived risk ratings by the participants. The percentage of correct responses for both the reference group and the recall group indicated no significant effect between naïve users, workers, and professionals in contrast to the findings for the SDS study. The presence of the hazard pictograms were significant for both the recall and reference groups and the presence of the precautionary pictograms were significant for the recall group with regard to the average percentage of correct responses. The time to respond to survey items for the reference group was reduced when hazard and precautionary pictograms were present on the labels, but there was no effect for the recall group. This finding supports the similar finding in the SDS study that the presence of pictograms may benefit users by reducing the time to locate information when the document is available for reference. The perceived risk findings in the label study were supported by the findings in the study of the hazard and precautionary phrases. Participants indicated a higher rating of perceived risk for the lower number GHS categories and when a signal word was present. These findings suggest individuals are able to discern the risk of a potential hazard using the hazard and precautionary phrases assigned by the hazard classifications. This supports one of the aims for GHS comprehensibility that the phrases used to indicate the degree (severity) of the hazard should be consistent across different hazard types (United Nations, 2009a).