New chemical classification system for Australia

Friday, 03 November, 2006

Information on a new global system for the classification and labelling of chemicals was released by the Australian Compensation and Safety Council (ASCC) this week.

Until now, different countries have used different symbols for the classification of chemical types and their hazards despite the fact that chemicals are traded across borders.

The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) was developed by the United Nations as a uniform way of classifying chemicals.

The UN published the first edition of the system in 2003 to "ensure that information on physical hazards and toxicity from chemicals be available to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport and use of these chemicals.

"The GHS also provides a basis for harmonisation of rules and regulations on chemicals at national, regional and worldwide level, an important factor also for trade facilitation."

The current edition of the GHS addresses classification of chemicals by type of hazard; guidance on the use of precautionary statements; the preparation of labels and safety data sheets; and pictograms that give an immediate indication of the type of hazard the chemical may pose.

A number of countries, including Australia, have agreed to implement the GHS as part of their national chemical regulation systems by 2008.

The ASCC is currently developing an OHS standard and codes of practice based on the GHS classification system. An information sheet on the GHS is available from the ASCC.

Wendy Cramer,LabOnline Journalist

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