01 Apr 2000

Global harmonized system of hazard communication for chemicals

Classification and Hazard Communication (labels and safety data sheets) for hazardous chemicals including some oil products are currently driven by national legislation for supply, and by UN harmonized agreements for international transport. Moves are under way towards a global harmonized system (GHS) for both, although probably not fast enough for the globalization of many supply arrangements.

Agreement could bring cost savings for industry and enhanced protection for workers and consumers, if the established systems in the major trading blocks, particularly the USA and Europe, can be brought together and a harmonized framework established. Much of the debate, hitherto, has been technical discussion of classifications, but the critical phase concerning hazard communication in now under way.

A group of representatives from twelve nations, together with four industry representatives and four worker representatives, under the chairmanship of Ireland, is currently attempting to shape the future direction of chemical hazard communication.