A lot of countries around the world have started using the UN globally harmonized system for classifying and labeling chemicals. This is done with the aim of achieving several objectives.
One objective of doing this is to protect the health of people who transport, store and process chemicals. Another objective is to protect the environment. A common classification enables the proper identification of chemicals and an indication of their hazardous levels. Some countries had no method of classification before. The countries that had classification systems classified their chemicals in a different way than others. This resulted in a lot of confusion in chemical handling and brought about risky situations.
GHS safety data sheets were made after a considerable study. The study aimed at addressing the differences in classification. It was meant at bringing uniformity in classification and categorization while ensuring that the protection levels are still high.
The classification considers the hazardous features of the chemicals as well as their formulation. It also considers the chemical’s reactivity with air, water as well as other chemicals. GHS SWDS hence aims at protecting the user as well as the people who are in the production, storage and transportation of the chemical. GHS faced a lot of revisions. GHS provides for the complete exposure of the hazardous content without hiding anything even if the information is confidential or could affect any proprietary formulations. This is a significant area of training to employees about handling chemicals as well as putting the safety labels correctly.
In case a distributor or an importer receives a sealed chemical container, it is his or her duty to make sure that the labels are intact. In case the container is open, a manufacturer should ensure that the data sheets are easily available to the employers handling the chemical.
GHS does not have a uniform testing method. It makes use of tests done by internationally accepted agencies. These are OECD as well as WHO. The tests contain information on environmental as well as health hazards. In the case of physical hazards such as flammability and explosives, one may refer to UNSCETDG tests. GHS makes use of the data available. When new data comes in place, it also uses it. Manufacturers and distributors should therefore keep these changes in mind. Some chemicals do not need to be labelled. These include pesticides such as rodenticide and fungicides since they fall under special acts.
GHS has brought a lot of benefits in chemical categorization and classification. It is also widely complex with exceptions and anomalies. With this, it is required that it is experts who should prepare GHS and SDS labels that are fully compliant. The experts also guard thee proprietary formulations when taking care of the exceptions.