Throughout the world there are different laws on how to identify the hazardous properties of chemicals we use in our daily lives and then how this information is passed to the users. This information is usually in the form of labels and Safety Data Sheets.
Because of the different laws it means that a chemical can leave one country being declared as non-hazardous for transport and use, but when it arrives at destination the authorities may deem it as hazardous for use and transport. This causes inevitable delivery delays and the need to undertake risk assessments before use.
The United Nations, together with experts from different countries, have created the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The objectives of GHS are -
a) Enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing an internationally comprehensible system for hazard communication
b) Provide a recognized framework for those countries without an existing system
c) Reduce the need for testing and evaluation of chemicals;
d) Facilitate international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been properly assessed and identified on an international basis.
In simple terms this means there is a global uniform basis for the evaluation of substance properties, how to label them and then pass the information on to users.
In December 2010 the European Union implemented GHS and will classify chemical substances according to how dangerous they are and label them using standardised danger statements and pictograms, universally.
What will change on labels?
Risk phrases (R) become Danger statements (H phrases) – examples
H240 - Heating may cause an explosion
H320 - Causes eye irritation
H401 - Toxic to aquatic life
Safety phrases (R) become Precautionary statements (P phrases) – examples
P102 - Keep out of reach of children
P271 - Use only outdoors or in well-ventilated area
P410 - Protect from sunlight
For products within the supply chain whose labels conform to the old classification, (this is covered by Directive 67/548/EWG), these can be continued to be delivered for up to two years.Two deadlines for products labelled before GHS:
For re-labelling substances
For re-labelling mixtures
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) provides both employers and employees with a comprehensive source of information about the hazards within a product. They should be used as a reference source for the management of hazardous chemicals in the workplace to ensure that a programme for employee protection is in place, training is given and consider any hazards relating to the environment.
The format should have 16 headings as follows:
2. Hazard(s) identification
3. Composition/information on ingredients
4. First aid measures
5. Fire fighting measures
6. Accidental release measures
7. Handling and storage
8. Exposure controls/personal protection
9. Physical and chemical properties
10. Stability and reactivity
11. Toxicological information
12. Ecological information
13. Disposal considerations
14. Transport information
15. Regulatory information
16. Other information.
Written on 27th July 2011 by Yvonne McCarthy, S&H LLP Associate