Did you know that chemical safety regulations have been increasing at a rate of >30% over the past few years? There’s more to come. Many of these regulations center around hazardous chemicals, affecting not only their use in research laboratories but also how they are shipped, handled and used by downstream users.
One regulation in particular needs to be on everyone’s radar right now. The United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals – or GHS – is being adopted worldwide. In the U.S., OSHA is updating their Lab Safety Standard 29 CFR 1950 to accommodate GHS. In the European Union, ECHA’s CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) regulation is also aligned with GHS, and is driving similar new chemical management requirements.
The UN's Globally Harmonized System (GHS) will dramatically change how chemicals are labeled and classified. ECHA's CLP regulation has adopted GHS for Europe.
What are those requirements? In a nutshell, because GHS seeks to clarify chemical hazards and strives to reduce the associated risks, it standardizes the way in which chemicals are classified and labeled while at the same time having the chemical’s associated Safety Data Sheet (SDS) follow a standardized format. Thus a chemical or hazardous substance will be consistently classified, labeled and explained worldwide, ending the confusion that arises when two different SDS for the same chemical exist.
Right now, there is a looming deadline on June 1, 2015 for manufacturers and importers that requires transition to the new chemical labels and SDS formats. It appears that many of the manufacturers are not going to be able to meet the deadline. Thus, there is significant confusion concerning who is responsible for doing what – particularly in research organizations concerned about their obligations under GHS.
The good news is that OSHA and ECHA understand that implementing such changes has turned out to be significantly more difficult than initially thought, and are providing interim steps to address the challenge.
There is an opportunity to learn more about how ECHA will address these and other chemical safety challenges at the upcoming Helsinki Chemicals Forum, HCF 2015.
HCF 2015 will be held from 28-29 May 2015 at the Messukeskus Helsinki Convention Centre in Helsinki, Finland. The packed two day event addresses such critical issues as the challenges of addressing the GHS deadlines; the future for global chemicals risk management; improving supply chain communications for chemicals in products; best practices in chemical alternatives assessment; and, green chemistry and engineering challenges. Speakers include top officials at ECHA and other international authorities and chemical industry organizations, such as the EU’s European Commission, CIEL, OECD, Environment Canada and the American Chemistry Council as well as numerous other agencies from around the world.
Preceding the conference will be the tenth annual Stakeholders' Day on 27 May 2015 that is designed for chemical manufacturers and importers who are most affected by the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) and CLP regulations. This event offers participants the chance to hear and discuss the latest news and updates from ECHA, European industry associations and involved non-government organizations. The annual event covers the REACH and CLP regulations and participants can also schedule one-to-one sessions with ECHA staff about specific topics. There are always more questions than can be answered after every session; this year the meeting should be particularly lively in light of the looming CLP deadlines.