The 1st of January, 2017 is rapidly approaching.
The Australian Government under the model work health and safety laws has mandated this deadline for the implementation of the GHS.
What is the GHS?
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is a globally unified system used to communicate chemical hazards using internationally consistent labelling and Safety Data Sheets (SHS). The GHS uses signal words, pictograms and hazard/precautionary statements to convey this information. The GHS was developed by the United Nations to provide a consistent worldwide system of chemical classification and hazard communication on labels and Safety Data Sheets. Australia has adopted the 3rd edition of the GHS, available from the United Nations Economic Commission. http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/ghs_rev03/03files_e.html
The GHS had its beginnings at the United Nations Rio conference in 1992. At this time there were many and diverse hazard classifications and regulations governing this, across many jurisdictions and countries. At this conference the Economic Co-operation and Development (OEDC), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and many Government representatives met. Here it was determined a worldwide approach was necessary in view of the increasing global trade in chemicals and substances.
This finally resulted in the creation of the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling at the Rio 1992 conference on Environment and Development. A statement released from this event made the following commitment “A globally harmonized hazard classification and compatible labelling system, including material safety data sheets and easily understandable symbols should be available if possible, by the year 2000”
The GHS will help and facilitate international trade by providing consistency in many countries that currently have different hazard classifications. While there is no compulsory requirement under UN law to adopt this, many countries are working to adopt the GHS.
Australia has set January 1, 2017 as the implementation deadline for GHS. Canada is committed to the complete adoption of a GHS aligned system by Dec 2018. The United States published a final rule for full adoption by Dec 2015.
Why are we adopting GHS in Australia?
The aim of the GHS is to provide a uniform methodology into identifying the hazards of chemicals and substances and any necessary precautions necessary to provide safe handling, storage and disposal of such chemicals. The GHS is not intended to change the duty of care in relation to existing risk assessment procedures or risk management obligations.
The GHS will also give substantial benefits with regard to trade as many of Australia’s main trading partners have already adopted this system or are currently implementing it. Other benefits include better health and safety outcomes by the introduction of internationally recognized systems and standards.
The GHS was introduced in Australia on 1 January 2012, with a 5 year transitional period to allow businesses to prepare for the 1st January 2016 deadline, when all chemicals supplied must comply with the new safety requirements. This new system is mandated in all states and territories except Vic,Tas and ACT. These states and territories still require the mandatory labelling of hazardous chemicals and the use of the GHS is acceptable for use under applicable laws and regulations. For specific information regarding your state or territory please contact your work health and safety regulator.
What is changing under the GHS?
The GHS will update the way in which information about hazardous chemicals is conveyed. This includes information regarding the safe handling, storage and disposal of such chemicals. The appearance of information on labels will change slightly. Some of the changes are as follows;
There are nine hazard pictograms (GHS hazard symbols) which represent the health, physical and environmental hazards. These are printed in black on a white background within a red diamond frame. A black harmonized hazard symbol inside the diamond represents a hazard class or a hazard category according to the GHS. For transportation, pictograms will have the current background, colours used in the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous goods.
A word (either DANGER or WARNING) is used on a label to indicate the relative severity level of hazardous chemical including if necessary the degree of hazard. Danger is used for the greater or more significant hazard, while Warning is used for less severe hazards. Only one signal word which corresponds to the relevant class of the most severe hazard should be used on each label.
This is a statement given to a hazard class or hazard category describing the nature of the hazards of a particular chemical and if appropriate the degree of hazard. For example the hazard statement ‘Toxic if swallowed’ is the hazard statement for acute toxity category 3(oral).
Precautionary statements describe the recommended measures to be taken to prevent or minimize the adverse effects of exposure to hazardous chemicals. The GHS precautionary statements cover prevention, response, storage and disposal.
GHS, Safety Data Sheet
The material safety data sheet (MSDS) will now be called the safety data sheet (SDS). This should provide comprehensive information including the identity, the properties (chemical and physical properties, and health hazard and environmental hazard information), use, safe handling procedures and safe disposal procedures. Sitectaft supplies a comprehensive range of dangerous goods storage solutions including flammable liquid storage cabinets and gas bottle storage cages. For hazard management of a chemical a SDS should be obtained from the supplier or manufacturer.
Who will be affected by the GHS?
Manufacturers, importers and suppliers of hazardous chemicals will be impacted by the introduction of the GHS. These businesses are responsible to correctly identify if a chemical is hazardous and then classify and label it correctly according to the applicable GHS labelling requirements. End users of hazardous chemicals should ensure all new stock from 1 January onwards is correctly classified and labelled in accordance with the GHS.
For further information regarding the transition to the GHS go to; http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/whs-information/hazardous-chemicals/faqs/pages/faqs. To ensure you comply with your legal obligations you must check relevant applicable legislation.
Sitecraft is a leading supplier of Materials Handling and Safety Equipment. This includes dangerous goods storage solutions and equipment for the safe handling and storage of hazardous goods; www.sitecraft.net.au