As of 1st January 2017 Australia has adopted the Global Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) under the model work health and safety laws. The GHS is a system that classifies and communicates about chemical hazards through chemical labels and safety data sheets and utilises international consistent terms. The GHS affects manufacturers and importers, suppliers and end users.
Although Victoria, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have not yet mandated use of the GHS yet, (but do require chemical hazards to be communicated) Commonwealth government agencies and licensees must comply with the model work health and safety laws. The GHS is not a replacement of the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) code, you must still comply with the ADG code and your relevant state or territory transport laws.
The GHS was created by the United Nations to ensure there is an international standard for the labelling and classification of chemicals and consistency with safety data sheets. The GHS system provides practical, reliable and simple to understand information, allowing users to take the appropriate protective and preventative measures when coming in contact with chemical hazards.
Hazard pictograms in the GHS
The hazard pictograms combined with the signal words (danger and warning) in the GHS indicate whether a chemical is a physical, health or environmental hazard and the severity of it (danger is more severe than warning). A copy of the classification and labelling for workplace hazardous chemicals can be downloaded on the ATOM product features page.
Hazard statements are assigned to a class and category that describes the nature of the hazard and degree of hazard, where appropriate. An example being, the hazard statement ‘Toxic if swallowed’ is the hazard statement for acute toxicity category 3 (Oral).
Precautionary statements describe the recommended actions and measures to be taken to minimise or prevent adverse effects resulting from contact and/or improper storage or handling of hazardous chemicals. Prevention, response, storage and disposal are also covered in the GHS precautionary statements.
Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals are now responsible for determining if a chemical is hazardous and to correctly classify the chemical according to the GHS. Furthermore manufacturers and importers must ensure the correct labels are used on their products and up to date SDS are prepared in alignment with the GHS.
Suppliers are able to continue to supply customers with stock they have on hand that does not comply with the GHS, providing it was manufactured or imported prior to 1st January 2017 and is correctly labelled at that time. From 1st January 2017, suppliers are only able to accept stock with GHS compliant labels.
End users are not required to relabel or dispose of chemicals not compliant with the GHS labelling. However, they should only accept hazardous chemicals manufactured or imported after 1st January 2017 if it is labelled in accordance with the GHS.
Don't forget to download your copy of the classification and labelling for workplace hazardous chemicals chart from the ATOM product features page.
To find out about exemptions from the GHS and/or more information, visit the Safe Work Australia website FAQ page.
A copy of the GHS publication can be downloaded at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe website.