It provides a logical and comprehensive approach to:
• defining health, physical and environmental hazards in a simple way• applying globally-agreed hazard criteria to classify chemicals/chemical products based on their hazardous effects• communicating these hazards on labels
• confirming appropriate compliant packaging for product hazards
• replacing all the different pictograms and symbols used in different countries with the new red diamonds in every country in the world
• providing common understanding through correct use on labels
GHS will replace all current hazard warning symbols on consumer products and is rapidly becoming a condition for international trade. The system is being phased in through national legislation in most countries around the world.
Does GHS affect industry or retail?
The intention is to communicate hazards to protect all people, whether industrial workers or consumers.
In addition, consumers have a right to know the hazards of products they buy, so they can make informed choices and use them safely. Already imported goods on supermarket shelves depict the new red GHS diamonds.
The first countries to require GHS classification and labelling are Japan, New Zealand and members of the EU. All products for export to the EU must comply by June 2015; but in fact the EU is already taking steps against non-compliant packaging and fining importers when discovered.
China, Japan, Korea and Malaysia also require GHS labelling and compliant packaging, while the US, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Australia will phase in these requirements by next year.Other countries are not far behind.
What about Africa?
A SADC policy signed by Ministers of Trade & Industry in Maputo in November 2012 requires all SADC countries to implement the GHS to prevent technical barriers to trade. Recognising that not all countries had yet started a transitional period, it was agreed that all SADC countries should fully implement the system by January 2020. Zambia, Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania and Madagascar are well advanced with relevant legislation.
Other parts of Africa – Nigeria, Uganda and other English speaking countries – are running programmes with assistance from UNITAR (UN Industrial Training & Research) and EU countries.
In South Africa, the lead agent is the Department of Labour. Revisions to the OHS Act will give the Minister of Labour jurisdiction over product labels as well as Safety Data Sheets for Industry. Other government departments requiring GHS include the Department of Transport (for labelling transport packaging); the Departments of Health and Agriculture (for registration and labelling of pesticides and herbicides); the Department of Trade & Industry (in terms of the Consumer Protection Act); and the Department of Environment (for classification and labelling of hazardous waste).
It’s essential that packaging and labelling providers understand the application of the GHS to assist their customers with compliance for exports and for the local market.
Awareness campaigns and training are urgently needed for industry and the general public. For instance, labels have to change to the new GHS red diamond. The current variety of symbols and colours will be unacceptable.
With its seat on the UN Committee of Experts for the Transport of Dangerous Goods and GHS, as well as working with UNITAR on GHS training, RPMASA is well placed to bring the most up-to-date information and excellent networking opportunities to the local packaging and labelling sector.
RPMASA provides introductory and advanced level GHS training courses, and can assist organisations with specific training, assistance and advice on GHS implementation, packaging and labelling.
For further information, contact email@example.com or call 032 9471145/1956.