Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS)

The United Nations (U.N.) developed a new system of classifying chemicals, known as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in response to extensive global trade in chemicals and the need to develop national programs to facilitate their safe use, transport, and disposal. The starting point of the U.N.’s approach was its belief that unifying existing systems would help in the development of a single, globally harmonized system for classifying chemicals, labels, and safety data sheets. This new system sets forth an approach to classification and labeling using types of hazard and proposes harmonizing hazard communication elements-labels and safety data sheets. The GHS focuses on making information available on chemicals’ physical hazards and toxicity with the intent of to enhancing the protection of human health and the environment during handling, transport, and use of chemicals. Trade also should be facilitated by the GHS since it provides a basis for global harmonization of rules and regulations on chemicals.

The United Nations Committee of Experts adopted the first edition of the GHS in 2002, and it has been updated and revised every two years based on needs which arise and experience gained during its implementation. CSPA played a very active role in the development of GHS, especially in regards to aerosol flammability test criteria and classification. The GHS is a voluntary system and does not impose binding treaty obligations on countries. However, it is binding on the regulated community in a country to the extent that a country adopts the GHS into national regulatory requirements. U.S. implementation of GHS developed slowly, with the U.S. Department of Transportation being the first to adopt various aspects of to harmonize domestic and international transport.

On March 26, 2012, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Department of Labor, issued its final rule which conforms the U.S. Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to the GHS, bringing GHS into the workplace. Conforming existing standards to the GHS is a step that many jurisdictions around the world have committed to implement, including major U.S. trading partners such as the European Union, Japan, China, and Brazil. CSPA has been actively working to resolve issues with members seeking to meet compliance deadlines in 2014 and 2015, with special emphasis on the aerosol requirements that CSPA negotiated more than a decade earlier.

CSPA commented on the earlier versions of the OSHA final rule. We believe pesticides should be exempted from GHS requirements since they are regulated by the U.S. EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Our basic position is that we support safeguarding human health and the environment while minimizing regulatory burden on industry and government, and a scientific, risk-based, practical, consistent, and transparent application of GHS that helps advance the safe use of our products. A harmonized communications system confers benefits, such as improved protection of human health and the environment, reducing the need for testing of chemicals, providing a recognized framework for countries without an existing labeling systems, and reducing barriers to international trade. One of the options for developing a GHS system, referred to as the “Building Blocks,” is that GHS consumer labeling should be based on the likelihood of harm (i.e., risk-based). This approach has long been the foundation of the U.S. “best-in-class” precautionary labeling system under the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The CPSC and EPA has not yet developed regulations that would implement GHS. Many CSPA member consumer products will therefore have labels complying with CPSC or EPA regulations while the Safety Data Sheets will require compliance with the often different hazards classifications and warnings required by OSHA under GHS.

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