HARMONISED SYSTEM OF
CLASSIFICATION AND LABELLING OF CHEMICALS (GHS)
CHEMICAL, ONE LABEL - WORLDWIDE
over the world there are different laws on
classification of hazardous properties of chemicals and
how information about these hazards is then passed to
users, e.g through labels and safety data sheets.
This can be confusing because the same chemical
can have different hazard descriptions in different
1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (known as the Earth Summit) met in
Rio de Janeiro
was the largest environmental conference ever held,
attracting over 30,000 people including more than 100
heads of states.
particular agreement, concerning a commitment to
sustainable development and agreed by many of the
world's governments, provides a framework for tackling
today’s social and environmental problems, including
air pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, health,
overpopulation, poverty, energy consumption, waste
production and transport issues.
It addresses the development of societies and
economies by focusing on the conservation and
preservation of our environments and natural resources.
This agreement, known as ‘Agenda 21’,and the
others that were made, covers every aspect of
sustainable development deemed to be relevant.
They, and their guidelines, are still adhered to
today and are influencing many political and business
component of ‘Agenda 21’ is the Environmentally
Sound Management Of Toxic Chemicals, Including
Prevention Of Illegal International Traffic In Toxic And
It was acknowledged that a
substantial use of chemicals is essential to meet the
social and economic goals of the world community and
today's best practice demonstrates that they can be used
widely in a cost-effective manner and with a high degree
programme areas to address the issue were proposed and
one of these was the development of a system for
harmonization of classification and labelling of
was agreed that a globally harmonised hazard
classification and compatible labelling system,
including material safety data sheets and easily
understandable symbols, should be available, if
feasible, by the year 2000.
This was not a totally novel concept since
harmonisation of classification and labelling was
already largely in place for physical hazards and acute
toxicity in the transport sector.
International bodies, in co-operation with
regional and national authorities that already had
existing classification and labelling systems, were
tasked to review the existing systems and elaborate a
harmonized hazard classification and labelling system to
be used for supply and transport.
This has become known as the UN GHS.
2000 target date passed but the
2002 UN World Summit on Sustainable Development, in
, agreed that the GHS should be implemented worldwide
and set the target date of 2008.
This commited countries to make the necessary
laws to require suppliers of chemicals within their
territories to adopt the UN GHS.
UN GHS aims to ensure that information on the hazardous
properties of chemicals is available throughout the
world in order to enhance the protection of human health
and the environment during the handling, transport and
use of chemicals.
provides the basis for harmonising regulations on
chemicals at national, regional and worldwide level and
the UN anticipates that, once fully implemented, the GHS
the protection of human health and the
environment by providing a system for
hazard communication that is
comprehensible throughout the world
a recognised framework for those
countries without an existing system
the need for testing and evaluation of
classification will help to reduce the
need for animal testing)
trade in chemicals whose hazards have
been properly assessed and identified on
an international basis
UN GHS is not a formal treaty but, instead, is a
non-legally binding international agreement.
Therefore countries (or trading blocks) must
create local or national legislation to implement it.
countries and trading areas around the world, e.g.
, have already adopted the GHS and many others are
working towards implementation.
the European Union, Member States asked the European
Commission to prepare a proposal for a Regulation which
would implement the UN GHS criteria in the EU.
the time of writing (September 2008), the European
Commission has accepted proposals for a Regulation on
Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances
and mixtures (CLP).
This Regulation will be direct-acting, requiring
no national transposition, and is expected to come into
effect by the end of this year (2008).
Its provisions will be phased in over a period of
seven and a half years and will require that
single substances are classified in accordance with the
GHS by 30th November 2010 and
preparations/mixtures by 31st May 2015.
Europe, legislation affecting classification and
labelling of chemicals for supply was first introduced
in 1967 (before the
joined the Common Market) and has continually been
refined and extended using the Dangerous Substances
and the Dangerous Preparations Directive (1999/45/EC)
and their amendments.
, these Directives are implemented by means of the CHIP
Regulations(1) which introduced the hazard
classification and information systems with which we are
suppliers of chemicals, they contain detailed
information, usually based on physiological,
toxicological and ecotoxicological data to enable any
physicochemical, health and environmental hazards to be
determined for a single substance or a preparation.
They also enable the appropriate Risk and Safety
phrases to be selected.
The methodology behind
the GHS is similar but the ranges are, in some instances,
different leading to a change in classification under this
are also hazards which can be evaluated under CHIP but which
are not yet incorporated into the GHS.
The GHS is automatically reviewed and revised every
CLP / GHS
Pictograms, black symbol on orange square
Pictograms, black symbol on white diamond with
differences are we going to see?
symbols/pictograms on labels and safety data sheets
addition to incorporation of existing symbols for explosive,
oxidising, flammable, toxic, corrosive and dangerous for the
environment, the GHS introduces three new pictograms
described as ‘Exclamation Mark’, ‘Gas Cylinder’ and
St Andrew’s cross to designate Harmful or Irritant will no
longer be used.
of the range of signal words that are
currently used to describe a hazard, there
will be only two – DANGER or WARNING.
There will also be levels of
classification that use neither pictogram
nor signal word.
Statements, as laid down in the GHS, will be
used to describe the hazard/s of the
Statements (also laid down in the GHS) will
provide information and guidance on safe
handling, storage and disposal
of a material may change in line with the
GHS criteria defining hazardous properties
can we prepare?
Spread the word
that everyone who uses hazardous materials, whether in a
laboratory, workshop, pilot plant, factory, etc. is familiar
with the symbols, hazards and safety information.
This includes students, estates and maintenance staff
and cleaners, amongst others.
that suppliers provide accurate and up-to-date safety data
sheets for their products.
Address COSHH(2) and DSEAR(3)
to update COSHH and DSEAR assessments in the light of the
GHS classifications and safety information provided.
Communicate information of hazards and
controls in the workplace
to replace posters, signage, internal hazard sheets, etc.
used to remind people of the nature of the materials in the
work they are undertaking(4)
the European Union, the effects of the Classification,
Labelling and Packaging Regulation on suppliers,
manufacturers and service providers are going to be immense.
Software packages will have to be rewritten,
electronic systems will have to be amended, labels will have
to be replaced and everybody involved will have to spend
time and effort in getting to grips with the new
top of this, the Registration process, under the REACH
Regulation(5), will gradually generate additional
information about hazards, exposure scenarios and risk
management measures for each substance, to be incorporated
into safety data sheets in order to provide users with
good-quality guidance on safety and control measures.
(Hazard Information and Packaging for
of Substances Hazardous to Health
Substances and Explosive Atmospheres
Chemical Hazards in the Workplace’,
IST Journal, Autumn 2007
Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation
of Chemicals’, IST Journal, Spring 2008