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The chemical industry relies on worldwide trade; the variance in classification systems makes assessing the safety of chemicals difficult. The Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and a World Summit held in Johannesburg in 2002 recognised this as an important global issue and the United Nations developed a Globally Harmonised System (GHS) on classification and labelling. The UN GHS is not a formal treaty, but instead is a non-legally binding international agreement. Individual countries (or trading blocs) must create specific legislation to implement the GHS. Within the EU this is implemented as Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on Classification, Labelling and Packaging – CLP.
The new regulations applied to substances from 1st December 2010, but for mixtures (most detergents and disinfectants) the change does not need to be made until June 2015. The reason for this delay is that mixtures are combinations of substances or other mixtures; it would therefore have been impossible for all changes to have been made at the same time as the data necessary to produce classifications would simply not have been available.
The most obvious changes to Labels and Safety Data Sheets will be the disappearance of:
There is no direct correlation between the old DSD / DPD classification system and the new CLP system. Sometimes products that are currently classified as Irritant may move to become Corrosive.
If you are an employer you must ensure that when a new Safety Data Sheet is issued, you use it to ensure that the procedures you have in place for safe storage, use and disposal of a chemical are still adequate. You should alert employees who are handling chemicals of the impending changed classifications and make sure that they are aware of the meaning of the new symbols and definitions. If you do not understand the changes, or the reasons for the changes, you should speak to your chemical suppliers.