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Safe Work Australia to consult with businesses about new international chemical classification

Nearly all workplaces will have some form of hazardous chemicals under their control, and the importance of correctly labelling them cannot be underestimated.

Since 2017, the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) has been transitioned into Australia under the model WHS laws.

The GHS system classifies and communicates chemical hazards using internationally consistent terms and information which are set out on chemical labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The system was developed by the United Nations with the intention of harmonising the many different chemical classification systems in use around the world.

The GHS sets out criteria for the classification of physical, health and environmental hazards (e.g. flammable liquids, carcinogens, or water toxicity).

At the time Australia adopted the GHS, the 3rd revised edition (GHS Rev 3) was implemented. GHS Rev 3 is now out of step with key trading partners in other jurisdictions as they will be utilising the latest 7th edition from July this year (GHS Rev 7).

But changes like this can impact on organisations who may have to update their SDS, so Safe Work Australia is calling on feedback from all businesses by July 2019.

The main changes in GHS 7 will include:

  • The definitions of “Skin corrosion”, “Skin irritation”, “Serious eye damage”, “Eye irritation”, “Dermal corrosion” , “Dermal irritation”, “Respiratory sensitizer”, “Specific target organ toxicity”, “Reproductive toxicity”, “Carcinogenicity” are updated.
  • The criteria for the categorisation of flammable gases will be updated. Both pyrophoric gases and chemically unstable gases will also meet the classification criteria of flammable gases category 1A.
  • A new precautionary statement P503 Refer to manufacturer/supplier/… for information on disposal/recovery/recycling is added for some explosives. Other precautionary statements are to be rationalised.
  • A new example for fold-out labels for small containers will be added that shows you what information needs to appear on the front page and pages inside.

If your business is involved in the manufacture, storage or transport of hazardous chemicals, then this consultation process will be a good opportunity to voice any concerns over GHS and its use.

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