An Analysis of the Comprehension of Pictograms used in the Globally Harmonized Systems for hazard and labeling of Chemical (GHS) and its suitability for Filipinos

Ronald Aaron Uy Po

Thesis (MS in Industrial Engineering)--University of the Philippines Diliman.-2008


With the impending implementation of the Blobally Harmonized System for hazard Classification and Labeling (GHS), the Philippines must take steps to prepare to adopt and use this system. A key issue in the implementation of standards is comprehensibility. The GHS uses symbols/pictograms and hazard statements that may be unknown to or cause confusion among potential users. Focus is given to the comprehension of symbols. The main factors of interest are the types of symbols and the amount of information accompanying these symbols. Also considered were the effects of demographic variables such as age, gender, relation of chemicals to occupation, position in the company, educational background, attendance in chemistry lectures in school, chemical-related training attended, and interest in labels in everyday life. A symbol comprehensibility test was conducted, with most samples targeted in the Chemical Industry sector to measure comprehensibility and identify gaps in comprehension. Nine symbols used in the GHS were tested with varying amounts of accompanying information. Different levels of management were surveyed. GHS elements were rated as correctly, partially correct, or incorrectly comprehended. There were only a few elements that were rated as "critical confusions", i.e, the interpretation was the opposite of the intention of the GHS. Results showed that both the type of symbol and the amount of information have a significant effect in the comprehension of the symbols. Providing at least some information increased the overall comprehensibility score by 163%. The skull and crossbones and flame symbols reported the highest comprehensibility scores among all symbols. Respondents who received chemical safety related training and who attended lectures in school reported significantly higher comprehensibility scores that those who did not. Since symbols are the first line of information against the potential ill effects of chemical substances, it is important to know what these symbols mean. Other than putting in more information, GHS-specific training programs must be designed. Attention should be given to poorly comprehended symbols, such as the compressed gas, flame over circle, and corrosion symbols.

Subject Index : Signs and symbols